Happy 2019! The New Year is traditionally a time to take on a new project or try something that you may have, for whatever reason, been putting off. In partnership with the Vermont Ethics Network, we want to help you make 2019 the year that you put a plan in place for your healthcare future.
You may be thinking, I’m a healthy and active person. Why do I need to think about this? A sudden accident or illness can happen to anyone at any time. Taking stock of what you want and talking with your family and friends in advance of a health crisis is an important, and easy, step that you can take today. Think of this as similar to the kind of planning you do for retirement or college. By appointing a health care agent and filling out an advance directive, you will relieve your family and friends of the responsibility to make significant decisions on your behalf without your input. It also puts you at ease, knowing that you have documented and communicated your healthcare goals and priorities. This is the best way to ensure that the decisions made are consistent with your beliefs and wishes.
The Vermont Ethics Network has broken this process down into three simple steps.
Step 1 – Who’s Your Person?
The first step is identifying your Health Care Agent. If you do nothing else in 2019, do this. Your Health Care Agent is the person you appoint to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself. According to the Vermont Ethics Network, your Health Care Agent should be a person you trust and who understands your wishes and who agrees to act as your agent. Your healthcare provider cannot be your Health Care Agent. Are you ready to take Step 1?
Fill out the Appointing a Health Care Agent form.
Step 2 – What’s Your Plan?
Now that you have your Health Care Agent, it’s time to document your healthcare goals and treatment priorities in your Advance Directive. This document provides guidance for your family, friends, and healthcare providers in times of critical illness or serious injury. Most people will choose to fill out the Advance Directive Short Form, which is composed of five sections. As long as the Advance Directive is properly signed and witnessed, the form is valid. So, you need only fill out the parts that you’re comfortable with, or ready to fill out.
- Appointing a Healthcare Agent You can do this as part of the Advance Directive, or you can fill out the separate Appointing a Health Care Agent form (see above).
- Treatment Goals & Wishes This is where you document wishes about having, or not having, or stopping treatment under certain circumstances.
- Limitations of Treatment This is where you express your wishes about CPR, breathing machines, feeding tubes, and antibiotics.
- Planning for your Funeral This is where you can express your wishes related to organ and tissue donation and planning for your funeral, burial, and disposing of your remains.
- Signatures You must sign and date your Advance Directive in the presence of two adult witnesses. The following people may not be witnesses: your Health Care Agent and/or Alternate Agents; your spouse or partner; parents; siblings; children or grandchildren.
Fill out the Advance Directive Short Form.
Step 3 – Are There Limitations?
For individuals who are seriously ill or dying, or who are certain they would not want life-prolonging interventions. The Vermont Ethics Network suggests talking with your clinician about Medical Orders to limit the use of life-sustaining treatment at the end of life. For more information, visit the Vermont Ethics Network website.
If you have any questions about this information, please contact the Vermont Ethics Network online or by calling 802-828-2909.