What are healthcare directives and why does my elderly parent need it?
A healthcare directive is a document your aging
parent signs, giving someone else the power to
make healthand medical decisions if he or she is
unable to speak or make decisions. Everyone
needs such a document because we never
know when or if we will become incapacitated. If
we are in an accident, have a stroke or are in a coma, someone has to be able to
decide what we would want done by the doctors and hospital. If we don’t spell
out our wishes in a healthcare directive, the decisions are up to doctors who may
not know us, or there may be conflicts among our loved ones about what our wishes
would have been.
Doctors who don’t know what a person wants may keep giving life sustaining
measures and using every artificial means at their disposal, even if we are terminal
and the treatment won’t change the course of our illness or injury. The most
important reason for having a healthcare directive is to be sure that our wishes are
honored, even if we can no longer say what we want.
A healthcare directive is free, and the form can be obtained from your doctor,
hospital, or on the internet. If you need help filling out the form, it can be found at
senior centers, from social service agencies, or from an elder law attorney.