Do I Need Advance Healthcare Directives?

None of us wants to think about having an illness, being incapacitated, growing older, or how to care for a family member in these situations.  But, advance care planning is an important step you can take for yourself and your loved ones, at any age.  After all, none of us knows when a car accident, stroke, or other illness may happen.  Pre-planning allows you to carefully consider the types of decisions that will need to be made, well in advance of any health care crisis.   As part of our estate planning process, the attorneys at Frame & Frame can help you consider these scenarios and plan for any outcome.  In this article, we’ll cover the most commonly asked questions about Advance Healthcare Directives – why you need them and what to consider.

When Are Advance Healthcare Directives Used?

Advance healthcare directives are also called living wills, medical directives, advance directives, personal directives, and advance decisions. All of these terms can be used interchangeably to describe the legal documents and instructions for your medical care, if you are rendered incapable of giving instructions yourself.  Most importantly, these illnesses or accidents can happen to people of any age, so it’s just as important for a mother with 3 young children as it is for an elderly person with a senior spouse or partner.

An advanced healthcare directive is important for a person (and their loved ones) who:

  • Was involved in a car accident;
  • Had a stroke;
  • Is unconsciousness or coma;
  • Suffered a severe and life-threatening injury;
  • Is diagnosed with cancer;
  • Is diagnosed with dementia; and
  • Suffers from complications from or due to failed surgeries.

What Does an Advance Healthcare Directive Do?

Advance healthcare directives provide your loved ones and your physicians with important information in the event of your incapacitation.  Advance healthcare directives outline your wishes, provide the legal documentation necessary to carry out those wishes, and clear up any confusion about who should be authorized to speak on your behalf.  More importantly, these documents provide clear direction that can save your family enormous heartache during a crisis.  An advanced healthcare direct often addresses:

  • CPR or Do not resuscitate orders;
  • Use of breathing machines (ventilators), dialysis machines, and other life-supportive medical equipment;
  • Use of fluid IV or nutrition via stomach tube;
  • Palliative or comfort care;
  • Tissue or organ donation upon death; and
  • End of life care.

Do Younger People Need Advance Healthcare Directives?

Absolutely!  If Covid-19 taught us nothing else, it taught us the tremendous value of having certain legal documents in place, in the event of a sudden crisis.  In addition, advance healthcare directives and your wishes may change over time.  Your preferences about how to handle certain situations may be different at age 40 vs. 85.  These legal documents can be updated as your life, priorities, or preferences change.

I Have Dementia. Can I Still Create an Advanced Healthcare Directive?

The answer to this question can be complicated.  Unfortunately, many people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are unprepared to deal with the legal and financial consequences of a diagnosis and the nature of the progressive illness.  A person can create an advanced healthcare directive so long as it is created while they still have legal capacity, but that can be a gray area and it is wise to seek the advice of a lawyer who specializes in elder law.   According to the NIH, “Advance planning can help you and your family clarify your wishes and make well-informed decisions about health care and financial arrangements.”  The key here is to plan in advance – not to wait until a diagnosis or crisis occurs.

Call Frame & Frame Estate Planning Attorneys Frame to Create Your Advance Healthcare Directive Today

Millions of people who become ill, without an advance healthcare directive, are at the mercy of their physician or family to make life and death decisions on their behalf.  Take control of your future and ease the burden on your family by working closely with the estate planning attorneys at Frame & Frame to formalize an estate plan.  Our proprietary ePlan365 platform even allows you to designate the family members you choose to have access to your wishes, in the event of a crisis.  You may also wish to communicate with your healthcare providers to ensure that your wishes are carried out and that a copy of your directives is in your patient chart. Don’t wait for a crisis to occur in your family!  Contact the Maryland Estate Planning Attorneys at Frame & Frame today to schedule a private consultation.