Many experts in the field consider a health care directive an essential piece of estate planning. Along with a simple will and a financial power of attorney, this document provides crucial protections for individuals and families.
An advanced health care directive enables people to record their health care wishes in the case of incapacitation, but its ramifications extend to other circumstances.
Advanced care planning
The National Institute on Aging describes advanced care planning as learning about potential health care decisions, considering these decisions and recording them in a legal document. This process provides value for both young and healthy individuals and the elderly. An advanced health care directive only goes into effect when an individual becomes incapacitated.
A seriously injured person could have multiple options for treatment but be unable to make choices for themself. The directive allows family and medical personnel to follow the stated wishes of the patient in several areas:
- Ventilator use
- Tube feeding and hydration
- Comfort care
Comfort care involves practices that reduce patient suffering and can include many personal preferences. For example, some people will want religious counseling while others might not.
Advanced care flexibility
The appropriate health care directive allows for changes throughout an individual’s life. A younger person could have different thoughts about receiving certain treatments, while at an older age that person might wish to try a remedy that could prolong life for a specific upcoming event.
A health care directive can include relatively simple instructions, or it could contain more detailed information. Other documents can also cover end-of-life issues. Frank discussions and preparation can provide comfort to family members and relieve them of hard decisions at a difficult time.