When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, health-related goals like losing weight and exercising more are often at the top of people’s lists. However, discussing plans for medical care as you or your loved ones age now can be incredibly helpful and stress relieving in the future.
At Brightview Senior Living, we advocate for everyone to complete an advance directive regardless of age or medical condition. In a time of crisis or medical emergency, these decisions can bring peace to your loved ones. Instead of panicking about serving your best interests, they can rest assured they are making decisions aligned with your wishes.
Completing an advanced directive doesn’t have to be complicated, and there are many free resources available to guide you.
What is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive is a group of documents that outline your wishes regarding end-of-life care and who can make those decisions for you. A living will and a durable power of attorney for healthcare, often known as a medical power of attorney or a health care agent, are the main elements of an advance directive.
A living will details your preferences for medical care and treatment in specific situations. You can decide if you would like life-sustaining treatments, such as tube feeding or ventilation, in the case of a terminal condition or vegetative state. You can also detail your wishes for organ donation or funeral arrangements after your death.
Your named medical power of attorney serves as your voice if you cannot make medical decisions on your own. They should be willing to discuss end-of-life issues with you and be your advocate should disagreements about your treatment arise. Your health care agent may be a family member, but it is not necessary. Whoever you choose, it is essential to discuss your wishes with your agent; you can’t anticipate every situation.
Talking with Your Loved Ones
Discussing plans involving a medical emergency or end-of-life care can be difficult for families and loved ones. If you or your loved ones are younger and healthy, it may seem unnecessary to complete a living will. However, a medical crisis can happen at any time.
For others, confronting the idea of their death can be painful or scary. Try approaching the conversation by explaining that you want to respect their wishes and honor their beliefs at this stage in their life. Be understanding; you may disagree with your loved ones’ wishes and vice versa. Affirm to your loved ones that you respect their decisions and will help see them out to the best of your ability. Even if your loved one does not want to create a living will, having conversations about their desires is helpful.
Reviewing Your Advance Directive
You can change your advance directive at any time. It is important to review your living will and health care agent in the event of a new medical diagnosis, relationship changes, or as you age. The wishes you have at age 40 may differ from your wishes at age 80. Be sure to destroy any old copies of your advance directive and give your family, doctor, and health care agent your most updated version.
Living Will and Advance Directive Resources
Fortunately, there are many free or affordable resources available online to help you complete an advance directive. Remember, an advance directive will only be used when you need emergency care and cannot make decisions independently.
Resources from your state regarding advance directives:
- Connecticut Advance Directive: https://portal.ct.gov/DMHAS/Programs-and-Services/Advocacy/Advance-Directives
- Maryland Advance Directive: https://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/HealthPolicy/AdvanceDirectives.aspx
- Massachusetts Advance Directive: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-law-about-health-care-proxies-and-living-wills#forms-
- New Jersey Advance Directive: https://www.state.nj.us/health/advancedirective/ad/forums-faqs/
- New York Advance Directive: https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/advancedirectives.pdf
- Rhode Island Advance Directive: https://health.ri.gov/lifestages/death/about/advancedirectives/
- Virginia Advance Directive: https://www.vsb.org/site/public/healthcare-decisions-day
- Virginia Advance Health Care Directives Registry: Use this secure tool to store your important documents - https://connectvirginia.org/adr/
Resources from other organizations:
- Five Wishes – offers a complete approach to discussing and documenting your care and comfort choices: https://fivewishes.org/
- PREPARE for your care – downloadable advance directives for every state available: https://prepareforyourcare.org/en/welcome
- National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys – a group dedicated to providing quality legal services to older adults: https://www.naela.org/
- National Institute on Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/advance-care-planning-health-care-directives
Brightview Senior Living builds, owns, and operates award-winning vibrant senior living communities in eight states along the East Coast: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. We offer senior Independent Living, Assisted Living, Enhanced Care, and Wellspring Village®, a specialized neighborhood for people living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Schedule a personal visit to experience our communities firsthand.