Martha Jefferson Healthwise: Advance Directive

April 10, 2013

If you were to get sick or seriously hurt and couldn't speak or make decisions for yourself do you know who would? In this week's Martha Jefferson Healthwise CBS19's Stephanie Satchell has more on a legal document called an advance directive that could help you and your family make those tough decisions if the time comes.

If you're on life support or have a serious illness you might not be able to communicate with healthcare providers about the kind of treatment you want. However, filling out an advance directive before-hand can give you a voice. It's a form that helps you make decisions when it comes to your medical care.

"The advantage of the document is it's put in very clean language what your goals are for yourself, what kind of treatment you would want, and who you want to speak for you," said Suzanne Smith, Chaplain, Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Smith says you'll answer questions about whether or not you want treatments to prolong your life like using feeding tubes, CPR or a respirator.
You can even decide who may visit you in the hospital.

"One of the major reasons for completing the document is because it gives legal force to your choices. So, you can tell your family members what you want, but if another family member challenges that understanding or mom told me something different then you're not stuck with the conflict," said Smith.

Smith says everyone should think about having an advance directive.

"This is not an elder issue. This is not just something you should have your 92-year-old mother do. All the famous cases were people in their 20's. So anyone who is over the age of 18 has the right to name an agent and the choices of their care," said Smith.

Although, it may not be easy to make these decisions, having one of these forms can help your doctors and family know exactly how you want to be cared for.

April 16th is National Decision Day. Healthcare providers across the county are encouraging everyone to fill out an advance directive form on that day. You can pick one up at Martha Jefferson Hospital. Staff will be on hand from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm if you have any questions about the form.

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