“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”

― Alan Lakein

While we strive to look after our bodies and to keep ourselves healthy, a debilitating illness can strike at any time. When you are left in a situation where you are unable to speak or make medical decisions for yourself, do you have a plan that will ensure your family and the doctors overseeing your care knows what you want? This is where a health care directive comes into play.

A health care directive is a document that is prepared to ensure a plan of action can be set out for times when you are unable to make decisions yourself. By having such a document, your loved ones will find peace of mind knowing that whichever course of action is taken in your situation, that your needs and wishes were satisfied.

Also called Advance Directives, understanding how this documentation works and who you can turn to if you want to have a directive prepared is important. Medicare provides a variety of resources to ensure you can get the help you need to set up a health care directive. They also provide a series of educational materials to help patients understand the importance of such a directive and to explain how the patient can go about setting up their own one. In addition, individuals with Medicare coverage are able to discuss the drafting of a health care directive with a doctor upon their “Welcome to Medicare” preventative visit.

Identifying Your Health Care Wishes

The development of a health care directive requires some initial thought. You will need to identify your wishes in terms of long-term care, especially in cases where you may not be able to make decisions for yourself. While it may feel uncomfortable to discuss certain topics like future disability, being prepared will be beneficial for you, your loved ones, and any physicians who are responsible for your care.

When it comes to identifying your own health care wishes, there are several factors that need to be taken into concern. One important decision that you will have to make is giving someone control over your care needs in case you are not able to make such decisions yourself anymore. This should be someone you trust, and one you know will take your needs into account. Once you have decided on a person to be your decision maker, it would be a good idea to have a conversation with them – ensure they understand your own wishes, so that they can take this into account if the time ever arrives for them to make crucial decisions in terms of your long-term care.

Some important areas that need to be considered:

  • Would you like to have CPR, also known as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, conducted on you in the event of your heartbeat stops or you have an abnormal rhythm that is placing your life in danger?
  • Whether you are comfortable with artificial hydration and feeding.
  • Whether you are comfortable with the use of a ventilator in case you are unable to continue breathing by yourself.
  • Your own comfort care needs in cases where you are unable to move by yourself.

Identifying Your Values and Beliefs

In addition to taking your health care wishes into close consideration when you are developing a health care directive for yourself, it is important not to overlook your own beliefs and values. Each person is unique in terms of spiritual beliefs, life values, and related matters when it comes to long-term care, disability, and medical services provided in a case where they are unable to speak or demand specific types of care.

Getting Started with Your Own Health Care Directive

Medicare has several helpful resources for beneficiaries at no cost to them – making this an even more essential document to have developed, as it won’t lead to out of pocket expenses on your side.

There are several ways to approach the development of your health care directive. You can visit your health care provider, or you are able to obtain the needed documentation from an attorney.

There are certain agencies that also specialize in providing patients access to services that will help them set up a health care directive, as well as to answer any questions they may have.

Alternatively, you can also decide to visit the local health department in your state.

Once a health care directive has been compiled, you should ensure that you keep the original copy in a location where it is easy to find. You should also ensure you make several copies and give these to family members, your physician, your long-term care facility, and any other relevant individuals.