Advanced Directives – your own voice, your own way
Who knows better than you what your health care preferences are?
Many people assume that close family members will automatically know what health care choices they would want in the event of a crisis, but making health care decisions on behalf of a loved one during an emergency situation or at the end of one’s life is ranked as one of life’s most stressful experiences. Doesn’t it make sense to talk to your physician and loved ones while you are healthy and add your wishes for emergency and end-of-life care to your medical records?
What is an Advanced Directive?
Advance Directives are written, legal instructions regarding your preferences for medical care in the event you are unable to communicate on your own behalf. They are your ‘voice’ to help guide doctors and caregivers as to your care if you are terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma, in the late stages of dementia, or near the end of life.
By planning ahead, you can receive the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering, and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. You also help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf.
Advance directives aren’t just for older adults. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age, so it’s important for all adults over the age of 18 to prepare these documents.
How to Create Your Own Advanced Directive?
Step 1 – Record your wishes in writing.
In Maryland, there isn’t one required legal form for Advanced Directives. Right now the best way to record your Advanced Directive is using the free on-line service Mydirectives.com. (You can also access this website by clicking the Advance Directive button above.). Other electronic versions with a more of a religious bend include Aging With Dignity and others. If you prefer a paper form instead of an electronic format, there are standard written forms issued by the Office of the Attorney General.
Step 2 – Let those close to you or those responsible for your care know you have an Advance Directive
Electronic Advance Directive sites will often send electronic copies to your family members and physicians if you provide their e-mail addresses. Maryland hospitals link to Mydirectives.com through CRISP the Maryland electronic medical record system, so Maryland hospitals can access your Advance Directives when you are admitted. Until the entire country engages with the digital format, however, it is recommended that you carry a wallet card notifying medical professionals that you have an Advance Directive on file.
Note: In the state of Maryland, an Advance Directive must be signed by two witnesses, but they do not need to be notarized. The witnesses cannot be your Health Care Agent or someone who stands to benefit monetarily from your passing. Your Advance Directive can be changed or updated at any time.
Most Advance Directives include these three sections:
- Appointment of a Healthy Care Agent or Health Care Proxy
- A Living Will, including Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) form
- After Death Wishes