As you age, it is important you think about filling out a healthcare directive. Having one is also beneficial if you have a terminal illness, have chronic health conditions or have an upcoming surgery.
A healthcare directive outlines your wishes for medical care in the event you are facing end of life or have been in a serious accident. In it, you can name a healthcare agent who will make sure the medical team follows all your instructions.
Healthcare directive basics
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, a healthcare directive is a legal, written document in which you lay out which medical treatments you want or want to avoid if you are unable to make these decisions due to mental or physical incapacity. Although having this directive is not necessary to receive medical treatments, it does direct the medical team on how to approach your care. Without one, the team may choose treatment options that you would be against.
Some of the items you may want to discuss in the healthcare directive:
- Specific medical facility in which to receive care
- Life-sustaining treatments you want or do not want
- General healthcare goals and preferences
- Organ donation instructions
- Funeral arrangements
How to choose an agent
You will also name an agent in the directive, and this person will follow your instructions or make medical decisions you had not addressed. WebMD discusses that naming this person improves the chances the providers obey your wishes. One of the most important traits of a healthcare agent is trustworthiness. This individual should also understand your beliefs and values to assist in making better decisions.
An agent should be confident in upholding your wishes, even if others disagree with them. An agent should also be able to ask the medical team questions and make decisions under pressure. It is always a good idea to choose a backup agent in the event your first choice is unavailable.