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Does talking about end of life mean it will happen sooner?
Nobody knows how today will end or what will happen tomorrow. Therefore, it's important for everyone to have a plan for when it's needed.
What should I do after I talk about advance care planning with my family?
After you have had the conversation, it's important to document it. Your wishes can be documented by completing an advance directive.
How can I make my advance directive legal?
To make your advance directive legal, it has to be signed in front of two witnesses.
I don't want to burden my family with having to make decisions for me.
Caring for others is what families do. Sometimes part of that caring involves making decisions. End-of-life decisions can be difficult, and an advance directive is one way to ease some of the decision-making burden. A person's wishes are communicated in an advance directive. It is the role of the your health care agent(s) to express those wishes after the decision has already been made about end-of-life treatments.
When is the right time to complete an advance directive?
Anyone over age 18 can complete an advance directive. As a person ages, it is a good idea to consider end-of-life treatment options. It is never too early to complete an advance directive.
How can I ensure my wishes will be honored?
Your health care provider generally will follow your health care directive or any instructions from your agent as long as the health care follows reasonable medical practice. You should inform others of your health care documents and give people copies. You may wish to inform family members, your health care agent(s) and your health care providers that you have health care documents and give them a copy. It's wise to review and update your directive as your needs change. Keep it in a safe place where it can be easily found.
How should I make decisions about my health care?
It's most important that you think about what's best for you and not what your family, friends or doctors would want for you. Decision making should be aligned with your values. Your values are what is most important to you and what gives your life meaning. If your values would be threatened with treatments, what would quality of life look like for you?
What happens if I change my mind?
Advance directive forms should be reviewed with your health care provider on a frequent basis. If you change your mind regarding some of your wishes, a new form can be completed. The most current form will be used.
Who is the best person to choose as my power of attorney (POA)?
It's important to choose someone as your POA that you trust to express your wishes. To express your wishes properly, you should have a conversation with them about what your wishes are, even though you have documented them in the forms.
If my loved one can no longer communicate his or her health care wishes, can we still complete advance care planning forms?
If a person can no longer communicate his or her wishes, it' too late to complete an advance directive.
Where can I get an advance directive?
Get an advance directive from the Wisconsin Medical Society, or by contacting your local hospital's social work department or your primary care provider's office.
Will emergency medical technicians (EMTs) honor instructions from an advance care directive in emergency situations?
No, EMTs cannot follow advance directives in emergency situations, as advance directives are not a doctor's order and are not signed by a physician. However, if you wish to avoid aggressive treatment in an ambulance (chest compressions, shocking the heart, placing a tube in the windpipe), EMTs are able to honor your wishes, but only if you have a state-approved community DNR bracelet on when they arrive. Talk with your physician if you wish to have one.