Advance Directives Communicate Your Health Care Choices Before the Need Arises

By john cannell
What are advance directives, and why are they important to me?

The term “advance directives” describes several types of written documents a competent adult patient may use to communicate their wishes about their personal health care choices, in advance of the need. In case a person becomes unable to express their wishes due to health conditions, having a written advance directive may give peace of mind to both the patient and family. Indiana law supports several types including Living Wills, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Appointment of a Healthcare Representative.

Am I required to make an advance directive if I am hospitalized?

There is no state or federal requirement for patients to have written advance directives.  It is a patient’s right to communicate their directions using these forms. If you are hospitalized the staff seek copies of your written advance directives in order to assure your care is in line with your wishes.

When do advance directives apply?

As long as the adult patient is competent and able to communicate, the health care team will talk with the patient seeking consent and direction from the patient. It is when the patient is unable to communicate or is unable to decide due to mental incapacity that the health care team tries to find out the patient’s wishes. This is when it is so helpful for everyone when the patient has told us before hand using the advance directive documents what kinds of therapies or artificial life-support they would want us to use in their care.

The Living Will document applies if you have been diagnosed with a terminal condition and the other documents are applicable in emergencies or in chronic conditions. Copies of your most current advance directives are kept in the electronic health record of most hospitals.

What forms should I use, and what if I change my mind later?

You may consult your personal Attorney for advice and for written form creation or you may use copies of the Indiana forms found on several websites and usually available through your local hospital. All forms require adult witnesses; one of the forms requires a Notary.

Regardless of the form of advance directive you choose, it is important that you speak with your family, your appointed healthcare representative about your choices and make sure you have copies available for your health care team.

You may change or cancel an advance directive at any time as long as you are of sound mind.  If you change your mind and your forms, you should tell your family, healthcare representative, power of attorney and healthcare providers.

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