Martha Jefferson Healthwise: Advance Directives

By: Stephanie Satchell Email
By: Stephanie Satchell Email

April 17, 2014

If you got sick and couldn't take care of yourself, do you know how you would be cared for or what type of decisions would be made regarding your health? A simple form called an Advance Directive could help you answer those questions. April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day and in our Martha Jefferson Healthwise report, Stephanie Satchell met with Doctor Karen Starr to find out how the forms work.

An Advance Directive may look like a simple booklet, but it's one that could make a huge difference in your healthcare if you fill it out.

"It lets people know what kind of medical care you want and whether or not you could make decisions on your own at that time," said Dr. Karen Starr, Martha Jefferson Internal Medicine.

The document spells out your wishes like whether or not you want CPR or certain medications used during your care.
An Advance Directive also appoints somebody to make those wishes known if you can't.

"It's important because we don't actually know what's going to happen to us day to day and we could end up in a situation where we couldn't make decisions for ourselves at that time," said Dr. Starr.

Dr. Starr says now is the time to start the conversation and get people talking about their medical options and making some decisions.

"I do it every year with my patients for their physicals. That's a really great time to bring it up," said Dr. Starr.

She also says an Advance Directive isn't just something for the elderly or terminally ill to think about. It's important for everyone 18 and older to complete the form.

"I've seen cases when they've been in car accidents and the form has been useful because of medical decisions that needed to be made ...surgical perhaps and those patients have the medical power of attorney individual make those decisions," said Dr. Starr.

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

You can pick up an Advance Directive at the hospital all this week or just ask your regular physician at your next appointment. You can also download the form from Martha Jefferson's website. Just be sure to return the document to your doctor and inform the people that you appointed as "decision makers" on your form.

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