While it may not be the easiest topic, discussing your advance directives with loved ones is worth the time and effort. It’s a step toward honoring your values and preferences during uncertainty.
Dr. Solani Shah from Intermountain Medical Center provided guidance on approaching advance directives. “If there's one thing that we all have in common, it's our mortality,” she said.
What are advance directives?
Advance directives are legal documents that outline your medical preferences and appoint a trusted advocate to make decisions if you're unable to communicate. These directives provide clarity to healthcare providers and your family.
Advance directive forms are on the Intermountain Health website with detailed submittal instructions.
Life is unpredictable, and there may be times when you’re unable to make your own healthcare decisions. During these challenging moments, advance directives lighten emotional decision-making.
How do I choose my medical advocate?
Choosing a healthcare proxy is a significant part of your advanced directive. It should be someone who understands your values, and who you trust to carry out your wishes.
Dr. Shah pointed out you can choose more than one person, if you’re sure they work well together.
“When that patient is able to tell me, this is the person, or these are the two or three people that I want making medical decisions for me, then that's what I trust and listen to,” said Dr Shah.
It’s important to remember that you can change your decision-maker at any time. Changes often occur during the ‘Four D’s’:
- Diagnosis: If you receive a serious diagnosis, consider perspective changes and express your wishes
- Decline: If your health declines, make sure your chosen advocate is ready to step in and make decisions
- Divorce: If you're separated or divorced, consider changing your proxy from your former spouse
- Death: If your appointed proxy dies, who is your next delegate choice?
How do I discuss my advance directive?
Approach this conversation with empathy, underscoring the significance of having your wishes respected.
Dr. Shah suggested avoiding medical jargon, communicating your values, and sharing activities that give your life meaning. This approach injects warmth into the conversation.
“When you sit down with your loved ones and talk about what brings you meaning and joy, that makes it easier for them to make decisions for you should an unfortunate situation arise,” she said.
Dr. Shah suggested initiating the conversation sooner, rather than later. It prevents unnecessary stress during emergencies, ensures respected preferences, and prepares your loved ones.
"It's always too early, until it's too late," said Dr. Shah.
Ready to create your advance directives? Visit the Intermountain website to access essential forms and resources. By taking action, you're securing peace of mind and providing your loved ones with guidance.