Making Your Wishes Known: Important Medical Documents You Need Now

The coronavirus outbreak has brought an essential topic to light: why important medical documents are necessary in case something happens unexpectedly. Even if you aren’t exposed to COVID-19, a variety of health issues could leave you too sick to make your own healthcare decisions. Regardless of age, every person needs to be proactive in advance care planning. A little bit of work right now can go a long way to reduce potential issues in the future.

Why an Advance Directive is Essential Right Now

A healthcare advance directive is one document that is critical as you plan for your future. Creating a healthcare advance directive tells your family and medical team what you want to happen if you are unable to speak for yourself. The advance directive answers two key questions:

  1. Who will make decisions if you can’t?
  2. If you fall critically ill, what level of life support will be offered?

A healthcare advance directive should name an agent or “proxy” to make decisions for the patient if the patient cannot make their own decisions. The agent should be a person of your choosing whom you believe has your best interests at heart and will be able to follow your instructions when the time comes. The directive should also specifically address what type of treatments you want or don’t want, such as ventilator support, dialysis, or artificial nutrition.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, strict visitor restrictions are in place in hospitals, which means that many patients do not have family or friends as advocates at their bedside or in the emergency department. Communication with family members can happen over the phone or electronically, but if a patient does not have a designated healthcare agent, or if the medical team cannot locate this information quickly, then healthcare decisions are left to the doctors. You can create these important documents now so that your wishes are followed if you are unexpectedly hospitalized. You don’t want physicians to have to make decisions for you, nor do you want your family or friends to guess what you would want to happen.

Once you complete your healthcare advance directive, you should share copies with your agent and healthcare providers. Some people put a copy on their refrigerator for paramedics to access quickly. You should discuss your advance directive with your agent to make sure they have an opportunity to ask you questions and fully understand what you are asking of them.

Support for Advance Care Planning

A healthcare advance directive is just one piece of advance care planning that should be addressed now, for your peace of mind and for the benefit of the person who will act as your decision-maker. There are other documents that are also important, such as a HIPAA release, a Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), and Power of Attorney for Property. The healthcare advance directive is critical now due to the risk that COVID-19 poses to healthy as well as medically vulnerable people.

If you need support in locating the right resources for finalizing advance directives as well as other important legal documents, then contact our team at Windward Life Care. We can help you with advance care planning, before a crisis occurs. Our Passport to Wellness program may be the right choice for you. Contact us at your convenience to work with an experienced team that can guide and support you.