June 14, 2024

Healt Hid

Because health is very important to us

Planning Medical Wishes and Quality of Life

3 min read

We hear a lot of talk about being prepared for an emergency. Some emergencies in life are medical, and there’s a way to plan ahead for how to handle emergency medical care for yourself or your loved ones. Good emergency preparedness includes making an advance directive to plan for future medical care and intervention.

It’s important for people to create an advance directive or legal document that identifies who can make medical decisions on their behalf, if they are not able to make those decisions for themselves. That person is called a healthcare agent. An advance directive can also specify what type of medical intervention a person wishes to have if they cannot communicate for themselves because they are physically or mentally incapacitated.

Advance directives are not just for older people. Anyone over the age of 18 should have an advance directive. If you watch the news, it’s clear that accidents or serious illness can happen at any age.

“Designating a trusted healthcare agent who is aware of your wishes is the most important part of an advanced directive. Doing this means you’ll have an advocate who can speak on your behalf about medical decisions when you’re unable to,” said Cory Taylor, MD, associate medical director for palliative care at Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City, UT.

“It’s never the wrong time to talk about what your wishes are for medical care. You can find a conversation starter guide and tips on the website the theconversationproject.org. It walks you through a short questionnaire to get you thinking about your feelings toward end-of-life care and what is important to you,” he added.

Physicians who specialize in end-of life-care recommend you start having those important conversations with your loved ones ahead of time, so they are not burdened with difficult medical decisions in the future, without understanding your wishes about what values and things are important to you and your quality of life.

“When I was about 19 years old and was leaving home for a couple of years, my dad sat down with me and we talked about who would make decisions for me if I was seriously injured or incapacitated and we put those wishes in writing. And we worked to make that document official,” said Dr. Taylor

“These are difficult, but very important conversations to have. Talk about your values with your healthcare agent. Share your preferences about what makes you feel like you’re living life and not just existing. It paints a picture so they can make decisions about questions that are hard to anticipate in advance. You can’t anticipate all the scenarios,” said Dr. Taylor.

Advance directives can help reduce stress and anxiety for both the person who puts their wishes in writing – and they help reduce stress and anxiety for the loved ones who are faced with making medical decisions for others.

According to Lockwood, it’s a good idea to update advance directives annually, or if you experience one of “The Four D’s:”

  1. Diagnosis – receiving a serious medical diagnosis.
  2. Decline – in health.
  3. Divorce – can impact who is designated to make medical decisions for a spouse.
  4. Death – of the designated healthcare agent.

Advance directives can be sent to your healthcare provider via mail, email, fax or placed in your electronic medical records, so your doctors or medical providers are informed of your wishes.

People often feel it’s too early to make an advance directive, but suddenly it can be too late. Timing is everything!

For more information about advance directives and copies of the forms for the state where you live, visit the advance directives page on intermountainhealth.org or TheConversationProject.org

You can upload Advance Directive forms to the Intermountain Health Patient Portal online or in the Intermountain Health app which is found on either the Google Play Store or Apple App Store on your smartphone.


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