Advance Directives

Advance Directives: Beginning the Conversation

Planning for your healthcare needs

We plan ahead for many things in life. But seldom do we think about planning for end-of-life medical care. Often we want to avoid thinking about it, believing “there will be plenty of time for that…later.”

But too often “later” comes too soon. And we face making difficult decisions at the last minute.

Planning in advance allows us time to:

  • discuss such matters with our loved ones
  • consider what it truly important to us as the end of life nears
  • make plans that will respect what we hold dear
  • let others know our wishes, so they can be honored

Advance directives: a gift for the future

Advance healthcare directives are a gift we give ourselves and our family. It’s the gift of making time to talk about important things, and to express our love for each other.

Advance Directives are a written document. It gives directions for medical care if you are unable to speak for yourself. And it allows you to appoint an “agent” – someone who will make decisions on your behalf — and to give directions to that person in advance about your wishes.

Completing Advance Directives give you and your family a chance to discuss what you value most. It spells out the actions you do and do not want your healthcare team to take to honor those values.

Examples of questions you may want to consider are these:

  • If your heart stops do you want it to be restarted? (Do you want CPR?)
  • If you can no longer breathe on your own do you want to be placed on a breathing machine?
  • If you have an illness that will not get better, do you want antibiotics?
  • If you can no longer eat on your own do you want to receive nutrition through an IV or through a tube into your stomach?

Your primary care physician can help

Completing Advance Directives is easy. Your primary care physician (or care manager if you are in the hospital) can give you a form that guides you through these questions. Information is also available from the Vermont Ethics Network.

Read through this material with your loved ones. Your physician or care manager will be pleased to be part of this discussion and to answer any questions you may have.

Our values change over time. And Advance Directives can change as well. What you wanted 10 years ago may no longer make sense for you now. Keeping Advance Directives up-to-date as your life unfolds is another gift you give to yourself and your family.

Resources to assist you in this process: