Advanced directives outline the care a patient should receive if they are unable to make decisions for themselves. It is a legal document particularly for those with a terminal illness who suspect their condition will grow increasingly worse.
Individuals who are in hospice care should consider how an advanced directive may benefit them and their family. There are also different types of advanced directives, and understanding the differences between each is also helpful.
The following is a complete overview of what advanced directives are, the different types and how each one works.
What is The Purpose of Advanced Directives
The purpose of an advanced directive is to ensure the patient gets the care they desire in moments when the patient is unable to speak for themselves or think in a rational manner. It gives the patient peace of mind and lets them know the treatment they will receive in certain scenarios.
Some may decide on an advanced directive as a way to take the burden off of their loved ones and medical professionals. Family members and medical professionals are often faced with difficult decisions when someone is terminally ill. This takes the responsibility away from those and allows the patient to make their own medical decisions in advance.
Types of Advanced Directives
Every patient is unique and has their own reasons to consider an advanced directive. There are different types of advanced directives to consider, and one may work better than another in certain situations. Some advanced directives are more general and broad, such as living wills and healthcare power of attorney. Others are more specific to the patient’s condition.
A living will is perhaps the most common type of advanced directive. The benefit of a living will is that it gives a clear and easy to understand outline of the treatment the patient desires if they are unable to make a medical decision on their own. In addition to the treatment preference the patient prefers, it also outlines what actions not to take. This lets the patient know what to expect and takes the heavy burden and responsibility away from family members. However, it does not go into as great of detail as several other types of advanced directives.
The Healthcare Power of Attorney
A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the right to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the patient if they are unable to do so themselves. It is typically someone the patient trusts and has a close relationship with, such as a spouse, parent or sibling. The benefit of a healthcare power of an attorney is that it covers the more unpredictable scenarios of healthcare decisions that may not be outlined in a living will. However, it takes the decision-making process away from the patient.
Advanced Directives for Alzheimer’s Patients
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that slowly causes memory and cognitive function to worsen. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the patient is able to think clearly and make rational decisions about their healthcare. As the condition worsens, they lose the ability to make the most informed decisions, leaving it up to loved ones and the medical staff to make tough medical choices. An advanced directive for Alzheimer’s patients allows the patient to dictate the care they receive once they can no longer make their own decisions.
Advanced Directives for Cancer Patients
Patients with advanced cancer often are not able to make the best decisions possible. This often leaves family members and medical staff with difficult decisions. These choices may include whether or not to try another round of chemotherapy, implement a feeding tube or even whether or not to resuscitate. An advanced directive allows cancer patients to make these difficult decisions for themselves before reaching that scenario.
Advanced Directives for COPD Patients
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition that has no known cure. For severe cases of COPD, patients may not be able to express their own preference for treatment. By discussing potential scenarios that may occur with a medical team and having a legal advanced directive made, patients with COPD can ensure they get the treatment they desire.
Advanced Directives for Patients Suffering From Heart Failure
Heart failure is one of the more fatal conditions in the United States each year, and it can lead to difficult decisions for family members and medical personnel. For those who are at a higher risk of heart failure, formulating a legal advanced directive is often a good idea.
Learn More About Advanced Directives Today
Advanced directives help those who have a serious or terminal illness or at high risk of heart failure or other life-threatening concerns to make healthcare decisions for themselves at times they are not able to express themselves. To learn more about advanced directives, or if you are interested in hospice care to ensure comfort and quality of life, reach out to our friendly team at Harbor Light Hospice today. We can answer any questions you may have and counsel you through the services available for you and your loved ones.