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Take charge of medical decisions with a health care directive

No one wants to think of themselves in a position in which he or she will be unable to make medical decisions for themselves. However, whether due to a serious accident, critical illness or dementia, there may be a time when someone else has to make decisions regarding your care and treatment.

A health care directive allows you to outline your wishes now so that if something does happen, the health care team will follow instructions based off your values and wants.

Choose health care instructions

Some of the biggest decisions you will make include those relating to what treatments you want, or do not want, to sustain your life or make the end of life more comfortable. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization outlines many of the factors you should consider:

  • Life-sustaining procedures, such as CPR, ventilator, blood transfusions, antibiotics, surgery or do not resuscitate orders
  • The use or withholding of artificial nutrition or hydration via feeding tube
  • Use or withholding of pain relief
  • Selection of providers or medical facility
  • Organ and tissue donation

Name a power of attorney

Another option you have is to name a power of attorney for health care. According to Delaware Health and Social Services, a POA is the person who ensures the medical team follows your instructions or makes decisions in the event you did not lay out instructions or something unexpected comes along. If you did not give instructions regarding life sustaining methods, your POA may only make them if you are permanently unconscious or in a terminal condition.

If you name a power of attorney, make sure you explain your values and general wishes, as there may be a situation that you did not foresee and the POA needs to make a decision based on what you would want. Choose someone who can make quick decisions, is not afraid to ask the medical team questions and is strong enough to stand up to your family if they disagree with the instructions you outlined.

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