When it comes to discussing the care we receive if we become seriously ill, there are many options, which can be overwhelming. Geriatrician Katalin Roth, MD, shares some helpful advice on gathering information so you can be better prepared and feel more comfortable knowing you have a plan in place in the event of a health crisis.
What is an Advance Directive?
This is an opportunity to let your doctors and friends and family know how you feel about treatment options in case of severe illness. You would name an advocate (also known as a healthcare power of attorney) who can make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable. You also create a living will, which details your preference of medical treatments, such as a feeding tube or ventilator, and acts as a guideline to properly manage your care.
If I Choose Not to Be Resuscitated, How Will Emergency Responders Know?
If you are seriously ill, or do not wish resuscitation, you and your doctor, or your proxy and your doctor, can sign a form. This lets emergency responders know that you only want care in the event of an injury that does not require resuscitation. For example, if you fall and break your leg, they will take you to the hospital for appropriate treatment.
What is a DNR, and Do I need One?
A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form lets doctors know that you do not want CPR or life support in the event your heart stops or you stop breathing. Without this form, paramedics are required to attempt resuscitation. A DNR form does not prevent you from being treated for your condition, or receiving pain or other necessary medications. Speak with your doctor and make sure he or she and your power of attorney both have a signed copy.
How Do I Know Which is the Best Option For Me?
Your physician can advise you on what forms you need based on your end-of-life care decisions. Living wills, DNRs and other end-of-life documents are usually state-specific, and you may be advised to consult with an attorney. Remember to involve your loved ones and caretakers in your decisions so your wishes are honored.