Advanced directives are used to ensure your wishes are honored in the later stages of your life. Whether you care for yourself, live with a loved one, or have moved into a nursing home, it is better to prepare ahead of time than to let someone else end up making important medical decisions for you.
Why Should I Plan Ahead for Health Problems?
Medical directives exist to protect your legal rights and make sure your healthcare providers are aware of your specific values and beliefs. You may have strong feelings about how the end of your life should play out, and you don’t want those wishes to be ignored.
Advanced health directives aren’t just for the elderly, though. Sudden life changes like accidents or unexpected health issues may prevent you from making your own decisions while still young.
What Do I Need to Consider for Health Care Directives?
The bottom line here is to think about how you would want to be treated in the event you were incapacitated or dying. Specifically, ask yourself questions like:
- Do you want to donate your organs after you pass away?
- How do you want your pain management to be handled, and would you prefer maximum pain relief even if it hastened death?
- If hospice care is needed, do you want it to take place at your residence, in the hospital, or at a nursing home facility?
- Is there a specific person you want to make healthcare decisions for you?
- Should medical staff stop assisting in oral feeding or refrain from resuscitating you if you suffer from advanced dementia?
- Would you want extraordinary measures to be taken to keep you alive, like a feeding tube?
What Is a Do Not Resuscitate Order?
If your heartbeat or breathing stops, a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order prevents medical staff from performing CPR to revive you. If you have an illness leaving you in severe pain or significantly impacting your mental faculties, you may want to sign this document to make your wishes known.
What Is a Health Care Proxy?
The state of New York specifically allows you to designate another person to make medical decisions on your behalf. A proxy can be particularly helpful in situations where you can’t speak or otherwise engage in your own treatment plan. It's important that your proxy is aware of your health wishes, and that you name an alternate agent in case your first choice isn’t available.
What Is a Living Will?
Unlike a standard will used in estate planning, a living will contains a list of instructions for what kind of medical treatments you want while you are still alive. Essentially, the will is written evidence of your wishes. This sort of document can be especially important if you don’t have a health care proxy, or if you don’t want specific types of treatments—like blood transfusions—for religious reasons.
How Can I Make Sure My Healthcare Wishes are Honored?
After these types of documents are signed, you need to make sure everyone knows about your directives for them to be useful. If medical staff aren't aware of your directives, they can’t follow them. Provide a copy of these documents to anyone who might be involved in your health, like your doctor or nursing home staff. Be sure to also tell your family about them, and keep copies at your home.
Can I Change a Health Care Proxy, Living Will, or DNR Later?
As time goes on and your health condition either improves or deteriorates, you might end up changing your mind about issues like DNR forms or health proxies. You can alter or entirely cancel any of these directives at any point.
Contact Us to Get Started
Do you need to work with a New York attorney to put together advanced health directives or discuss other important topics like planning for Medicaid coverage of a nursing home stay? Contact Alatsas Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation.