Advance Directives are instructions you provide ahead of time concerning the medical treatment you wish to receive, should you lose the ability to make your own decisions. At BroMenn Medical Center, we can provide you with written forms that meet the requirements of the State of Illinois, which will assist you in documenting your wishes.
Assessing Your Values
Before you can communicate with anyone else aboutyour wishes for health care, you must first clarify what you value and want for yourself. After you reflect upon what you consider priorities for life, you can more effectively make decisions about what type of medical interventions you would or would not want if you become unable to speak for yourself.
Some considerations might include whether you wish to be placed on a breathing machine, whether you wish to be fed through a tube, or whether you would want resuscitation attempted if your heart stopped.
No one likes to think about a time when they may not be able to make health care decisions. On the other hand, no one wants those decisions made without their wishes being considered. Completing an Advance Directive ensures that your health care wishes are clearly documented in the event that you are unable to make those decisions yourself.
This is Your Health Care
Health care is changing each day. There are many new procedures, machines and medications that offer new treatment options. These medical advances help people live longer and healthier lives. Medical advances also present us with more medical decisions to make. Whenever possible, it is you, the patient, who decides what choices are best for you. The law gives you the right to be informed about your medical condition and the treatment that the physician would recommend. You also have the right to be informed about other health care options. Then, when a medical decision needs to be made, you can do so with informed consent.
Speaking for Yourself
There are four kinds of written Advance Directives recognized in Illinois. They are:
Power of Attorney for Health Care
This document allows you to name someone to act as your agent for health care choices in the event you are unable to speak for yourself. This person is normally a relative or close friend whom you trust to carry out your choices in conjunction with the medical staff. You decide how much decision power this person has.
The Power of Attorney for Health Care document also allows you to state your wishes with regard to organ and tissue donation. While, this may not be an easy conversation to have, you may want to discuss this issue with your family so that you can communicate clearly about your values. Your spiritual leader may also be helpful in this discussion and decision-making process.
Living Will (Illinois Declaration)
This document becomes effective only after your attending physician has determined that you have a terminal condition or are in an irreversible state of decline. Typically this document states that you do not want measures taken that prolong the dying process, and you wish to be given comfort care.
Mental Health Treatment Declaration
This document is effective for only three years and is used to appoint another person to act as your agent to make mental health treatment decisions.
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Uniform Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Advance Directive Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Advance Directive
This advance directive can be used to create a physician order that reflects your wishes about receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other life-sustaining treatments. For example, the form allows you, in consultation with your physician, to make advance decisions about whether CPR should be administered if your heartbeat and breathing stop, or to limit treatment according to your wishes during other emergencies. CPR, when successful, restores heartbeat and breathing. The POLST form replaces the commonly known, but less comprehensive, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. The completed POLST form is intended to be honored across various settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and by emergency medical services personnel in your residence or en route to a health care facility.
Other Steps You Should Take
Communication is the key. Take your time as you share your feelings and wishes with those people who are significant to you.
Talk to Family and Other Important People
It may be helpful to speak with your spiritual leader for guidance and support. As you talk with family and friends, remember that they may need time to understand your wishes.
Communicate Your Wishes to Your Primary Care Physician
It is essential that you also communicate your specific wishes to your primary care physician. It is a good idea to give your physician an updated copy of your Advance Directive whenever you make a change to your document.
Have Copies of Your Advance Directive Document Available
We often place important papers in lock boxes or a home safe. This is not the case with an Advance Directive. Hospitals and physicians can act on your wishes only when they have a copy of your signed document on your patient chart. Make extra copies for family or friends who can access them for you.
For more information on advance directives, contact our Chaplaincy Department at 309.268.5499. Some advance directive forms are available online at the Illinois Department of Public Health website.