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Advance Directive – A Guide to Your Healthcare Decisions

By: Richard Orlan, MD,

As we grow older, we may face situations where we become unable to make important medical decisions for ourselves. This could happen due to a severe illness, a coma, or any other condition that makes us unable to communicate our wishes. That’s why it’s important to create an advance directive – a legal document that outlines our healthcare wishes and appoints someone to make decisions on our behalf.

There are two types of advance directives: a living will and a healthcare power of attorney. A living will is a document that explains what kind of medical treatment you would like to receive if you become terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state. A healthcare power of attorney is a document that names a person you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them yourself.

Creating an advance directive is important because it ensures that your wishes are respected, and your medical treatment aligns with your values and beliefs. It also helps to alleviate the burden of decision-making from your loved ones, who may be emotionally overwhelmed during a difficult time.

Advance directives are not just for older adults – anyone can benefit from having one. In fact, accidents and unexpected illnesses can happen at any age, and having an advance directive in place can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

It’s important to note that advance directives are legal documents and must be completed in accordance with state laws. The Vermont Ethics Network’s has an online document, Vermont Advance Directive for Health Care, that provides details and instructions. It’s also essential to discuss your wishes with your healthcare provider and your loved ones to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Creating an advance directive is an important part of planning for your future healthcare needs. It can give you a sense of control and peace of mind, knowing that your wishes will be respected even if you are unable to communicate them. Talk to your loved ones and healthcare provider about creating an advance directive today.

Richard Orlan, MD, is a primary care provider for Community Health’s Nursing Home Service Line, serving Mountain View Center, Rutland Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center, and The Pines. He is board certified in geriatrics, hospice and palliative medicine and also serves as an Associate Medical Director for the VNA Hospice and Medical Doctor for the Isaac Health Brain Health team.