Advance Directive: Tools for Communicating Your Health Care Wishes

Palliative care and oncology clinical nurse specialist, Bronwyn Long, RN, DNP, explains the importance of advance directive care planning and describes tools available to assist with conversations related to health care decision-making.



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Advance care planning is important because it gives patients and families an opportunity talk about an emergency before an emergency happens.

It’s a lot easier to make health care decisions at a quiet time around the kitchen table rather than when the ambulance crew is in the living room.

An advance directive is a document that offers guidelines regarding a patient’s health care wishes.

For example, who the decision maker should be, if the patient is not able to make his or her own health care decisions.

Also, what health care treatments a patient may or may not want.

An advance directive is a modern version of a living will that is a little bit more general.

For example, it identifies a health care decision maker for the person and offers a few guidelines, but is not detailed in the way a living will may be a detailed legal document.

An advance directive goes into effect at the time the patient is no longer able to answer questions regarding his or her health care.

It’s important to discuss the advance directive with the medical durable power of attorney, the person who is going to be making health care decisions for you while you are unable to speak for yourself.

It would be important to share your advance directive with your physician and then your specialist who you see most often.

These are among the physicians most likely to receive a call from the emergency room where the ER staff is looking for information on the patient.

A patient does not have to have a terminal illness in order to complete an advance directive.

In fact, all people should have an advance directive.

We never know what’s going to happen to us, it’s always a good idea to have a document and make sure we have some guidelines to offer family and friends when we are hospitalized and unable to speak for ourselves.


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