Advance Directives – Part 2

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In part one of this two-part series, we discussed the Advance Directive and what it may contain. Now we will go into it a little further and discuss how to make sure that others are aware of what our wishes are.

Welcome to The Seniors Circle, where we hope to inspire and help others by providing valuable, relevant information related to caring for an elderly loved one. Hi, my name is Dawn Neely, I’ll be your host. Thank you for joining is.

We’ve established that an Advance Directive is a legal document, and that it is designed to provide guidance for medical and health care decisions in the event that someone becomes unable to make such decisions. We talked about some of the things that may be included in the Advance Directive such as a Living Will, A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and a DNR, or Do Not Resuscitate Order. Even if you are in good health, you might want to consider writing an advance directive. An accident or serious illness can happen suddenly. If you already have a signed advance directive, your wishes are more likely to be followed.

So, how does one write an advance directive? You can write an advance directive in several ways.

  • It can be a form provided by your doctor
  • Write your wishes down by yourself
  • Call your health department or state department on aging to get a form
  • Call a lawyer
  • Use a computer software package for legal documents

Advance directives and living wills do not have to be complicated documents. They can be short, simple statements about what you want done or not done. Remember, anything you write by yourself or with a computer software package should follow your state laws. You might also want your doctor or a lawyer to review what you have written. They can make sure your directives are understood exactly how you intended. When you are satisfied with your directives, have the orders notarized. Then give copies to your family and to your doctor.

If you ever want to change your advance directive and you are of sound mind to do so, you may change or cancel your advance directive at any time. Being of sound mind means you can think rationally and communicate your wishes clearly. Again, your changes must be made, signed, and notarized according to the laws in your state. Make sure that your doctor and family members are aware of the changes.

If you change your mind, you can also make your changes known while you are in the hospital. Tell your doctor and any family or friends who are present exactly what you want to happen. Usually, wishes that are made in person will be followed in place of the ones made earlier in writing. Be sure your instructions are clearly understood by everyone you have told.

Another question that I ask during assessments, is whether our prospective client has heard of the Vial of Life. The Vial of Life is a smart way to have your medical information on hand just in case of an emergency. Seniors need this because of their constant medical changes and medications. It’s truly the right thing to do. Let’s face it, in an emergency situation, many people find it difficult to think straight, and in this case, all emergency personnel who are trying to help you need to know many things about you, especially if you have a complex medical history.

They would love to know:

  • Who you are
  • What medications you are using
  • What illnesses you have
  • Who your emergency contact person is
  • Specific health information, like, what is your normal blood pressure.
  • Are you wearing hearing or seeing devices?
  • Do you speak English? And, if not, what language do you speak?
  • They will want to know if you have Advance Directives, and most importantly in an emergency, a DNR.

If there is a Do Not Resuscitate Order in place, but the documents are not available to present to the first responders, they are in most states obligated to proceed with life saving measures, including CPR. In some states, a DNR is only applicable in a hospital setting.

Senior adults should definitely have a Vial of Life. However, the Vial of Life is applicable for people of all ages, especially individuals with chronic or severe medical conditions, developmental disabilities or people that live alone. Emergency responders know to look for information on someone in their home alone having an emergency. There are different forms that can be filled out and placed in an obvious place. But the most obvious form of the Vial of Life is the red pouch that has a magnet and sticks to the refrigerator. These can be ordered online and in some cases obtained from your local Fire Department.

Talk with your loved one if you feel that they would benefit from having a Vial of Life available. Find out if they have Advance Directives in place. Let them know that you want to make sure that their wishes are followed. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Seniors Helping Seniors at 248-969-4000. We would be happy to assist you in any way that we can.

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