No matter how old we are, we never know if an accident is going to happen that lands us in the emergency room, or worse. Dr. Fine stresses the importance of speaking to your loved ones about advanced directives, or, how you want to be taken care of in the event of a medical emergency. This way, a trusted family member or loved one can make decisions for you when you’re unable to make your own — it’s the best way to ensure that your values are honored in the event of an emergency or end-of-life scenario.
The term “advanced directives” is not familiar to a lot of people. What I mean by this is “how do you want things to be handled when you get sick?” Have you thought about, “What if I stop breathing?”, or “What if my heart stops? What do I want done?” Everybody should have this conversation at any age because bad things can happen whether you’re 20 or 70. If you’re suddenly facing life or death, you want to have a roadmap for what’s going to matter to you in the end.
Do you want nature to take its course? Do you want a family member or loved one to make decisions for you if you can’t make your own in a medically-dangerous situation?
Just google the term “advanced directives”, and you’ll find online tools that can help you assign power of medical attorney without a lawyer. There are different tools in every state, such as “Five Directives”, that help with end-of-life care and decision-making. They can help you think about the different contingencies that might happen to you in a life-threatening situation. Thinking through advanced directives can help you decide when, how, and whether to use health care resources during end-of-life situations.
Make sure that you sign, organize, and notarize your paperwork! Make sure your family members and loved ones know where to find that paperwork. Oftentimes people draft living wills and assign medical powers of attorney, but when they get taken to the emergency room, no one can find the paperwork. The people that should know where it is don’t have access to it.
So make sure that you give your documents to your hospital, to your personal doctor, and to your loved-ones and family members. Make sure they all have a copy and that it’s signed and notarized. This way, everyone is on the same page if anything were to happen to you and you couldn’t make decisions for yourself.
It’s really sad from a physician standpoint to see patients unnecessarily suffer at their end of life. And we don’t know when end of life is! It’s going to come for all of us at some point and I want everyone to make sure that they’ve thought about a plan of action. Everyone’s values are different. By having a plan of action, your values will be honored by those taking care of you.
The medical system is designed to just “do more” and hold out every hope and to keep you alive. Our system pushes every basic test and procedure that can be done in nearly all circumstances. By having your advanced directives in order, you can rest assured that you’ll be taken good care of in the event of an emergency.