Picture this- you’re driving home from work when suddenly a car plows through the median and hits your vehicle head on. The severity of the accident knocks you unconscious and your injuries require you to be taken to a local hospital. You end up in a coma, unable to communicate your wishes for how you want your life-threatening injuries to be treated.
If you have advance directives prepared, health care providers can look to these legal documents to ensure you receive the type of care you want. Although some people believe advance directives are only for the older population, anyone over the age of 18 needs to have them. You never know when an injury or disease might strike.
There are two main types of advance directives:
- Power of attorney for health care– If you’re unable, this is who will make health care decisions for you. You can select up to three people. In Wisconsin, if you haven’t designated power of attorney for health care, the courts may need to get involved and appoint a person for you. This process can take weeks.
- Living will – This document spells out the types of medical treatments you do and don’t want as well as your preferences for such things as medications, tube feeding or organ donation. While preparing a living will, you’ll likely learn more about the type of care you want. People sometimes believe preparing a living will is the same as refusing treatment. This simply isn’t true – it’s about making sure your health care wishes are carried out if you’re unable to communicate them yourself.
If you decide you’re ready to prepare advance directives, start with contacting your primary care provider. Most clinics have the documents you need to fill out. Your health insurance provider can also help. At Network Health, we can send forms for you to fill out on your own or have someone guide you through the process during an in-person meeting.
Once advance directives are in place, you should keep a copy for yourself as well as a copy in your vehicle. You should also give a copy to the people you designate as power of attorney’s for healthcare and your health care providers – your primary care provider, any specialists you see on a regular basis and your preferred hospitals.
To learn more about advance directives, reach out to your health insurance provider.