Young, healthy individuals rarely think about what they would do if faced with big medical decisions and were unable to make their wishes known. Fortunately, advance care directives give individuals the opportunity to outline their choices for health care ahead of time so that it is not a cause for concern should they become incapacitated or unable to speak for themselves.
According to the Mayo Clinic, advance care directives are legal documents that let family members, caregivers and medical professionals know what kind of care individuals want. A directive can prevent unnecessary suffering, reduce confusion or conflict between family members, and give people control over their own care. So who needs advance care directives?
1. Those with terminal illnesses
Someone with a recent diagnosis of a terminal illness should get an advance directive as soon as possible. This gives them the chance to decide what kind of care they would like when they near the end of life. Some patients do not want resuscitation or would like to donate their organs. A directive can outline these requests.
2. Those with dementia
Older adults in the early stages of dementia should also get an advance care directive. As the disease progresses, most dementia patients lose their cognitive functioning. This makes it challenging to express the care they would like to receive.
3. Everyone else
Because no one knows when an accident could occur, every adult should prepare by signing an advance care directive. It is an essential part of any estate plan and should be top of mind when preparing other important documentation.