We all live as if we’re planning to stay here forever, without advance directives and with no documentation clarifying our end-of-life wishes, preferences, and instructions. But an accident or heart attack may strike at any moment, leaving our families confused and helpless about choosing how to move on with our healthcare.
To avoid this trouble and give your family and yourself peace of mind regarding your last days, the state of unconsciousness, or a debilitating terminal illness, make sure to compile the package of seven essential health documents we discuss below. Most of these documents overlap in some sense, but this redundancy won’t serve you a bad favor. Instead, it will guarantee that your medical interests and preferences are well-understood and adhered to.
#1 Living Will
A living will is probably the most important document to compile when thinking about health care issues and emergencies. If you are unsure how to complete it, consider using free templates and tools available online, like the forms by FormsPal.
It often happens that people suffer severe trauma unexpectedly, becoming permanently unconscious and unable to make decisions independently. In such situations, having a living will is an excellent way out of numerous financial, ethical, and moral dilemmas that your mourning family members may encounter in the healthcare system.
Suppose you have specific wishes regarding how you’d like to pass away, for example, without being exposed to numerous days of life-sustaining support and tube feeding. In that case, you can stipulate that in the document. Your wishes will be respected, and your family won’t endure the trouble of making decisions for you by doing guesswork.
POLST can be deciphered as “Physician orders for life-sustaining treatment,” which is a document relating specifically to the administration of life-sustaining measures like tube feeding or lung ventilation to keep your body functioning. The benefit of filling out the POLST form is that you do this with your physician, who later adds it to your medical record. Thus, the medical team won’t need to double-check your healthcare preferences with your worried relatives in case of an emergency. They’ll have all the instructions in your medical record.
#3 Durable POA
While a living will stipulates your wishes that you voice in advance, with no ability to change or negotiate them upon getting unconscious, the durable (or medical) power of attorney gives the power of decision-making to your proxy or health agent. This person becomes your advocate in healthcare settings, speaking on your behalf and acting in your best interest. But keep in mind that health agents typically don’t have the authority to shut down life support, which is the prerogative and the legal right of family members only.
#4 DNR and DNI Orders
These acronyms stand for “do not resuscitate” and “do not intubate,” both meaning that after your heart stops beating and your breath is no longer detected, medical staff won’t take CPR measures to return you to life. Overall, CPR is presupposed by the medical protocol, with the modern American healthcare system trying to save as many lives as possible. But the quality of life after clinical death is unpredictable. Those who have endured prolonged cardiac arrest usually acquire a permanent disability, such as brain damage or liver damage. So, if you consider such a life not worth living and wish to minimize the risk, you should file a DNR or DNI order and include it in your healthcare documentation.
#5 Life Insurance
Getting life insurance as early as possible is a path to your family’s well-being. Once you experience any health issues or develop a terminal illness, you will definitely want your relatives and children to avoid financial turmoil. This can be achieved with the help of active life insurance that will cover your healthcare costs and will serve as a source of financial stability for your family for some time.
#6 Organ Donation Instructions
There is nothing dreadful about thinking of organ donation; in fact, it’s a socially responsible practice that gets more widespread today. If you’re ready to sacrifice your body for the sake of saving other people’s lives, it’s your right. The simplest option of voicing your wish to donate organs is to check the organ donor box on the driver’s license. No matter how spooky it sounds, your driver’s license serves as the first identifying document in case you get into a car crash. So, the emergency team understands whether your body can be used for urgent organ donation.
However, this option does not guarantee that your wish will be followed. You may not have the driver’s license with you at the moment of an accident, or your family may decide otherwise (they have the right to). A sure way to donate your organs is to file a donation application to the National Organ Donor Registry. Once you are registered in the system, which is aligned with emergency rooms’ systems, your instructions will be followed.
#7 HIPAA Form
Last but not least on our list is the HIPAA form. According to the 1996 HIPAA Act, your health information is kept private and cannot be accessed by anyone, even family members. So, if you want to give your relatives access to medical records, you need to fill out the HIPAA release form and indicate people’s names granted access to them.
Here you go with the vital health documents to have at hand. Let’s all live long but be prepared!
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