Cancer Covered Blog

Advance Directives: Your Choices for Your Future

90% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end -of -life care is important, but… only 27% have actually done so.

As medicine has advanced and life expectancy has increased, our society has come to see the subjects of dying and death as taboo. The topics are often avoided out of fear and discomfort. However, there are some things medicine simply cannot stop. Dying and death are inevitable but, how your end-of-life care is managed is in your hands.

In general terms, Advance Directives are documents that speak for you when you are unable to do so. These documents are created, by you, to specifically outline your wishes, beliefs and values regarding your health care. The specifics of: long term health care, mental health care, breathing machines, tube feedings and other medical procedures can be addressed per YOUR wishes. Here we’ll briefly address two of the most commonly seen Advance Directive documents (electronic links provided below).

Living Will: 

  1. A Living Will document details your wishes for only the time period when you are close to death or in a vegetative state. It does NOT allow for another person to make health care decisions for you.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPOA-HC) 

  1. A DPOA-HC allows you to appoint a “health care agent” who will be able to make health care decisions for you, ONLY in the event that you are unable to do so. This document does not go into effect until two physicians “activate” it by documenting that you lack the capacity to make these decisions yourself. It is vitally important that you chose a person who knows, understands and will follow your wishes.
  2. In the state of Wisconsin, there are several document options; each considered to be a DPOA-HC. The most commonly seen are: The State of Wisconsin Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, Respecting Choices and Five Wishes. While the details of the document vary, the goal is the same.

Just as important as completing an Advance Directive is making sure it gets to where it needs to be. Providing your healthcare team and your loved ones with the document(s) allows for more open, honest communication focused on your wishes, hopes and dreams.

Advance Directives allow you the opportunity to discuss and document what is important to you so your end-of-life experiences can be just as meaningful as the way you’ve lived your life. While Advance Directives cannot encompass every possible medical scenario, they can provide the basis for thoughtful, YOU-based end-of-life care.

Electronic links to assist in your end-of-life planning:

  1. http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/forms/advdirectives/Index.htm.
  2. www.theconversationproject.org
  3. Five Wishes documents are available through Green Bay Oncology
  4. “My Health Care Wishes” is an electronic Advance Directive Manager, allowing you to keep your documents easily accessible via smart phone or other devices. www.americanbar.org/groups/law_aging/MyHealthCareWishesApp.html
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