When dealing with the anguish of watching a loved one’s health decline, family members are often overwhelmed with grief and confusion. It can be a difficult time for everyone involved and when medical decisions must be made, the situation is made even more stressful as family members debate healthcare decisions and question who best knows the patient’s wishes. Advanced directives are a free and relatively easy to complete document that can alleviate this stress by making a person’s wishes clear.
There are two main forms of advance directives: power of attorney for healthcare and living will. Power of attorney for healthcare names a specific person to make medical decisions on behalf of the patient, while a living will spells out what kind of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures doctors should carry out.
“Advanced directives have the power to lift the burden of confusion from family and friends during a health crisis, allowing them to instead focus their energy on supporting the patient and one another,” said Kathy Neely, MD, chair of the Medical Ethics Committee at Northwestern Memorial. “Serious illness is not something people want to think about, but by doing a little bit of planning, one can put things in order for their family in case the situation ever arises.”