It can be hard to talk about, but there is a question each of us should consider: What happens if I am not able to speak for myself when it comes to my own medical decisions?
Without an advance directive, those decisions have to be made by somebody else. That usually means family members and doctors who may not be clear about what your medical decisions might be. Sometimes, they may disagree with one another or even with your wishes.
By filling out an advance directive, you are wisely planning today for what may happen tomorrow. By making your wishes known, you’re removing any doubt or confusion about crucial medical decisions that may have to be made in the future. It also shows your concern for loved ones by freeing them from the stress of making what may be difficult choices.
An advance directive is a written instruction telling your family and health care team what you want done in case you have a serious illness or injury and cannot speak for yourself.
You might choose to have your advance directive contain only a few instructions about your care, or it may name a person to make decisions on your behalf. Or it can be very detailed, clearly explaining the kinds of life-sustaining treatments you would accept or refuse in certain circumstances.
If you think an advance directive is only for older adults or those who are seriously ill, you’d be surprised. People of every age and health status fill out advance directives, even before routine procedures, to protect their health care wishes. Some patients even update them over the years as they go through different life events and health issues.
Your advance directive guarantees you are the one making the decisions about what treatment or care you receive. Not anybody else. You’re making sure your voice is heard and your values are honored by your loved ones and your health care team.
The directive also frees the people you care about from the stress and anxiety of having to make a critical choice about your medical treatment. In fact, patients and their families have been shown to suffer much less stress and anxiety with medical decisions when an advance directive has been made.
Having the advance directive makes me feel very secure about my needs being met." Julie, City of Hope patient
For more information about advance directives, visit the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center to pick up the educational booklet Making an Advance Directive or ask to speak to a clinical social worker. The booklet is also available for download .
If you have additional questions about advance directives, please call the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at 626-218-CARE (2273).