Advance directives are a way of communicating who you want to make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them yourself. This is a legal document in Michigan. Making Choices Michigan is a great resource for a simple advance directive form. Check out their website at www.makingchoicesmichigan.org and click on Resources.
All adults should have an advance directive. Young people should also have an advance directive as soon as they start to drive.
The person we choose is called our Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPOA-HC). He or she needs to accept this responsibility and must sign the document. In addition to the person we choose, we should select first and second alternates in case the person we choose is not available. These individuals should have certain characteristics:
- Be able to make decisions for us that we would make for ourselves even if they disagree with that decision
- Be able to function in potentially high stress, emotional situations
- Be able to function on potentially little sleep
The person(s) you choose might not be family members. They could be also be friends, neighbors, co-workers or church family members.
After the person you choose accepts this duty and signs the document, you and he or she need to have a conversation. This is not about whether or not to have CPR or be put on a ‘breathing machine’ or have IV medications. This is a conversation about what is important to you. What does a good day look like? What would you be doing? Who are the people you would want/not want in the room with you? What are your cultural, religious or spiritual beliefs? What is important to you in order to live well?
Next, you should share your advance directive with those closest to you who might be affected by the decisions another person could be making on your behalf. They need to understand what your wishes are and who you have chosen to be your DPOA.
Also, share your advance directive with your health care provider. Ask to have it added to your patient file.
If you are hospitalized, bring it with you so your care providers have a copy. Some people travel with it in the glove compartment of their vehicle. Others have it posted on their refrigerator.
If, for your DPOA, you write down what is important to you, review this document at least annually. Your goals, values and preferences might have changed.
If you desire assistance anywhere on the journey of completing an advance directive, please consider contacting Wings of Hope. We have eleven staff who have been trained in the Respecting Choices model who can assist you. This is a confidential and free service of Wings of Hope.
Photo credit: Craig Gardiner Photography