Putting your end of life wishes in writing could be one of the best things you could do for your family.
What are Advance Directives?
Advance Directives are directives you give “in advance” about your health or financial wishes. These directives have to be completed before you reach a point in your life when you are no longer able to manage these decisions for yourself.
Types of Advance Directives:
Power of Attorney for Health Care
The Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document where you choose someone to be your “Health Care Agent” or POA-HC. Your POA-HC would be allowed to make decisions about your physical or mental healthcare, admit or discharge you from any healthcare facility, have access to all of your medical records and, if noted in your POA-HC, the authority to make decisions about your body or remains after death. You can draw up your own POA, or use a Statutory form. See the links below for the Statutory Forms.
Power of Attorney for Property
A Power of Attorney for Property allows your agent to manage your property and finances if you are unable. For example, only a POA for Property would be allowed write a check. If you do not have a Power of Attorney, your loved ones may face a situation where they don’t have access to your funds to provide for your care. If so, they may have to seek Guardianship of your Estate, which involves cost and time. Here’s a Statutory form for Illinois.
Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
Also referred to as a DNR, the POLST, is both an advance directive and a doctor’s order. This form should be completed after you have been diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Many of our patients state that they do not wish to be on life support, however, don’t realize that they need to complete a POLST in order to indicate the wish to not receive CPR at the time that they have no pulse or are not breathing. This form allows you to indicate your preferences about CPR, quality of medical interventions and medically administered nutrition. See below for more information.
A Living Will is a document you can complete to inform your healthcare professionals that if you have an incurable and irreversible medical condition, or a terminal condition, that you want to be permitted to die naturally with only comfort measures. This form is not required, but is another way for you to tell your medical team what your wishes are. However, it does not appoint a health care agent. Thus, it is advised that you also complete a POA for Health Care to do.
Five Wishes is another Advance Directive, which goes into more detail about what your end of life preferences are.
What are common limitations of Advance Directives?
There is no copy available.
An Advance Directive is only going to be useful if a copy of it is provided to the health care professionals, or financial Institutions. At Joliet Area Community Hospice, your POLST and POA-HC are entered into your medical chart.
Your advance directive is out of date.
It’s best practice to review your Advance Directives – FIVE D’s:
- Every Decade
- After a Death of a family or friend
- After a Divorce
- After a serious Diagnosis
- After a Decline in health
There may be more than one Advance Directive.
The most recently completed Advanced Directive is the valid directive, unless the person completing the form was not determined to be capable of completing that directive at the time.
Advance Directives may be vague or difficult to interpret
In addition of providing your loved ones a copy of your advance directive, it is always best to discuss your wishes with them.
It’s too late
If you cannot make health care decisions for yourself, a health care “surrogate” may be chosen for you. Under Illinois law, two doctors must certify that you cannot make health care decisions for yourself before a health care surrogate can be appointed. A health care surrogate can be one of the following persons (in order of priority): guardian of the person, spouse, any adult child(ren), either parent, any adult brother or sister, any adult grandchild(ren), a close friend, or guardian of the estate.
However, while your health care surrogate can make most health care decisions for you, there are certain decisions that a surrogate cannot make.