You buy car insurance and homeowners insurance, but maybe you haven’t given the same attention to preparing in case you are ever unable express your healthcare wishes.
A legal document called an advance healthcare directive specifies your wishes about your care and under what circumstances you want your life prolonged. You can also name a person, called a healthcare agent or proxy, who can make care decisions for you in the event you cannot.
“Many people have thought about their wishes,” says Yvonne Chan, R.N., who manages Peninsula Circle of Care, a Mills-Peninsula Medical Center program. “But few of them put that information into an advance healthcare directive document that can be referenced in case a medical situation arises where they are unable to speak for themselves.”
Think about and document your wishes while you are healthy, Chan advises. If you suddenly fall ill or are badly injured, you may become overwhelmed with anxiety or unable to communicate what you want.
Having an advance healthcare directive will also help loved ones if they are faced with making decisions for you. “You don’t want to put your family in the position of having to guess at your wishes,” says Patricia Firenze, R.N., a nurse care manager with Mills-Peninsula Medical Center who helps seniors fill out advance care directives. “Although documenting your wishes can feel overwhelming, remember that it doesn’t need to be done all at once. And you can always make changes to the document later on if needed.”