While virtually no one wants to think about end of life medical care, these decisions are crucial to your health and well-being. Establishing an advanced directive now spares your family immense stress when it comes to making decisions about your medical care when incapacitated by illness or injury. 

An advance directive also provides you peace of mind. This legal document ensures your wishes are heard, even when you are unable to communicate them to medical staff or family members. 

Questions to ask when creating an advanced directive 

It is best to create an advanced directive with the help of a doctor, who can explain different types of treatments and what they are used for. You should also involve family members, so they will know what to expect. When making decisions about advanced care planning, ask these questions: 

  • How would I like breathing issues addressed? Respiratory arrest is the complete cessation of breathing. Medical professionals can use a ventilator to force air into the lungs when breathing has stopped. The use of a ventilator requires intubation, which involves inserting a tube into the throat so air can be delivered. A tracheotomy may also be performed, in which an incision is made in the airway so the breathing tube can be inserted directly.  
  • What is a do not resuscitate (DNR) order? A DNR order limits the life-saving treatments that can be applied in the event your heart stops. With cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), a medical professional performs compression on the patient’s chest to restart the hear. Defibrillation involves the application of electric pulses via paddles held to the chest. Along with DNRs, you can also implement do not intubate (DNI), do not attempt to resuscitate (DNAR), and allow natural death (AND) orders.  
  • Should I consent to a feeding tube? When a patient is unable to eat, a feeding tube provides life-saving nutrition. In certain cases, a feeding tube can cause complications, particularly in people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. That is why some people prohibit the use of a feeding tube within their advanced directives.  

Along with spelling out your final wishes within estate planning documents, you should also name a healthcare proxy. This is a person who can make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able. When choosing a healthcare proxy, be sure to pick someone on board with your end of life healthcare philosophy. The person should also be reliable and should be available when needed.