Two weeks ago, I asked four questions about advance directives.  Here are the results:

#1 Do you have an advance directive? No 70%, Yes 30%

This aligns with national averages.  Only 20-30% of Americans report having an advance directive.  Despite seventy percent of Americans preferring to die at home, nearly 70% die in a hospital, nursing home or long-term care facility.

#2 Do you have a power of attorney for healthcare (healthcare proxy or agent)?  No 60%, Yes 40%

A power of attorney for healthcare is someone who can speak for you, they can voice your choice and make decisions for you.  If you do not have a legal power of attorney for healthcare (different from power of attorney for finances or estate planning), a surrogate will be appointed to make decisions for you; a guardian appointed by the court, a spouse, an adult child, a parent, a sibling, a grandchild, a close friend or a guardian of your estate (in that order).  It is much easier and less stressful for your family and medical team to have a clearly designated person speaking on your behalf and following your directions.

#3 If you do not have an advance directive or power of attorney for healthcare, why not? (Multiple answers were checked per individual)

I don’t want to think about that now/it’s not a priority. 33%

If the documents are needed, it’s already too late to think about it.  When it is a priority situation, it is often too late to begin thinking about it.  The best time to think about it is when you are healthy and have time to think; when you have a well-functioning brain to make decisions; and when you have the ability to use your voice to communicate your values and wishes to your healthcare power of attorney.

I wouldn’t know where to start.  33%

I can help.  The hard part is taking the first step.  And that’s how the best journeys begin.

I don’t understand what it is.  17%

An advance directive is a legal document.  It includes naming a power of attorney for healthcare, someone 18 years of age or older who is the best person to speak for you, to communicate your choices and if needed, to make the best decisions that align with your values.  Additionally, the advance directive portion outlines the medical decisions about treatment plans and life-support choices that reflect how you want to live before you die; whether with a terminal or chronic condition or in a coma or vegetative state or near death.  You can also express where you would like to be (facility or home, hospice, etc.), with whom you would prefer around you; and plans for your life’s celebration and your remains after you die.

My family already knows what I want.  17%

If it is not in writing, with witnessed signatures, and available for the healthcare team to read, the state determines who will make decisions for your medical care.  This can lead to differences of opinion between family members if everyone is not in agreement.  Think of your own life now, does your spouse absolutely know what you would want in different situations?  And if you are not married, do you want that responsibility put on your children to make decisions about life support?  Will they remember what you said?  If you don’t have children, are your parents able to decide for you?  Have you talked about ventilators and feeding tubes and nursing homes as choices for the rest of your life?

I’m healthy, I don’t need one.  17%

That’s what many people involved in accidents have thought.  That’s what many people who have sudden cardiac arrests have thought.  That’s what many people with devastating brain injuries have thought.  When lying in a bed on a ventilator with a breathing tube in the mouth and restraints on the wrists, it is nearly impossible to do more than nod a head yes or no or mouth a few words, let alone try to have a conversation with family and the medical team about choices for oneself.

#4 Do you have any other questions or comments regarding advance directives?

“They are a blessing to the individual and their loved ones.”  “Everyone should have them if they can.” “What if you’re not sure exactly what you want?” “Where do I start and what is necessary right now?”

Please reach out to me via email at [email protected] or call 847-901-3888 so we can talk about your choices, decisions and resources.  Don’t let the day to day business of life put aside for later what can be done now.  No excuses.  Get it done.  Let’s increase that statistic of 20-30% of Americans who have advance directives!

“Knowing is not enough. You must take action.” -Tony Robbins  

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