April 16 is National Health Care Decisions Day; Learn how to make advance medical directives

It is the right of the patient to choose the medical care they wish in any situation, even when the patient is too sick or hurt to tell their family members or their physician. The way to ensure the correct healthcare wishes are carried out is to complete an Advanced Directive. Advanced Directives include: Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and/or a Living will.

1. In order to have an Advanced Directive the patient will need to discuss their wishes with their family and physician. An Advance Directive should be done by discussing wishes with family and physician and then complete a Power of Attorney for Healthcare form.   
2. The patient can appoint a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. This person knows the patient’s wishes and they will follow through with the patient’s wishes if they are too sick or hurt to do so. This person will have the authority to make life and death decisions according to the wishes. Make sure this person is willing to be the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
3. The patient can fill out a living will - this should be in writing. It explains the patient’s wishes about withholding or withdrawing medical treatments should they suffer a terminal illness or are sustained on life support. Living wills may state specific measures that the patient wishes or does not wish to have taken to prolong their life when they are clearly dying.
Living Wills are legal documents that are required to be signed just like a regular will, but it does go into effect before death. It is then important to explain to the family and those close to them the wishes the patient has chosen. It is also important to talk with their physician to make sure the plan is clear and will be supported by the health care workers.
4. Advance Directives can be changed at any time, as long as the patient is capable of making decisions. Advance Directives should be placed in the patient’s medical record. It is also a good idea for the patient to have a wallet card available indicating their wishes.

Informational packets for filling out Advance Medical Directives are available at the main entrance of Veterans Memorial Hospital. For more information, call Becky Welper, RN, at Veterans Memorial Hospital at 563-568-3411.