4 Capital Region Medical Center Make your health care wishes known Do you have an advance directive? It’s a conversation you should have sooner rather than later. DO YOU HAVE A PRIMARY CARE PROVIDER? If you need help finding one, call 573-635-3627 or visit crmc.org/providers . What is an advance directive? An advance directive is a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment, made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor. It is a common misconception that matters, such as filling out an advance directive, are things you don’t need to worry about until you are in the later stages of life. In reality, a severe health problem can arise, suddenly or slowly, at any time. Unfortunately, accidents can happen at any moment. People young and old can receive a potentially life-threatening diagnosis. Bottom line? A time may come when a severe health problem is so bad that it could result in death or the inability to return to an active quality of life. Why does it matter? When these severe health situations occur, most people have an opinion about what we want our doctors to do (or not do) in regard to treatment. However, most people don’t regularly have conversations with their loved ones about what to do if they are severely ill and dying. It’s not exactly a lighthearted topic we’d like to have over dinner, right? This is why advance directives are so important. By completing one, you make it very clear to your doctors and family what to do if your health condition causes you not to be able to think or talk. On the form that you fill out, there is a list of specific treatments where you can check “yes” (meaning you do want the treatment when you may be dying) or “no” (you don’t want the treatment when you may be dying). This way, not only are your wishes carried out, but you also make the process a bit easier for your loved ones who are sharing this difficult time. It is important to complete your health care directions when your health is stable and you are feeling well. Note that you are able to make changes to your directive at any time. Another important piece of the advance directive process is assigning a durable power of attorney for health care decisions, known as an agent in legal terms. This should be a person you love and trust enough to make your health decisions when you can no longer do so yourself. They should be someone with whom you discuss your health care wishes so that they will make sure those wishes are followed, as stated on your advance directive form. Talk to your doctor No one really wants to think about making end-of-life decisions. But just as we create a will and other legal documents to determine what will happen to our physical properties when we pass, it’s important to take the time to determine which health care treatments we wish to receive to keep us alive and which ones we do not. If you do not have an advance directive, talk to your doctor about completing one.