Advanced Care Planning

Why do I need to worry about this now?

Only you can decide what’s best for you.  Having a plan allows you to make your choices now, before anything happens.

It gives your friends and loved ones a guide to follow, so they know they are doing what you would want them to do.  This can ease their guilt at making decisions for you if you can no longer be consulted.

Accidents happen.  Over 130,000 people will die from unintentional injuries each year.  Having a plan for your medical treatment will allow your decisions to be known until the end.

REMEMBER: Your advance directive will not go into effect unless you lose the ability to communicate your wishes and desires to your doctors!

How do I make an advance directive?
“It’s always too soon, until it’s too late.”

Have a conversation with your close friends and family.  Explain to them what you would want to happen to you if you were dying, and weren’t going to get better.  Choose someone you trust to make decisions for you, based on your wishes, and ask that person to be your health care proxy.  This person can be your spouse, your child, or even a trusted friend.  Discuss things like:

  • If your heart stopped beating and you stopped breathing, would you want CPR?
  • If you couldn’t feed yourself, would you want a tube down your throat, or one surgically placed in your stomach, to help you eat and drink?
  • Would you want antibiotics for an infection?
  • Would you only want to be kept comfortable, and free of pain?
  • Would you want to donate your organs?
  • Would you like to die in a hospital? A nursing home? At home, surrounded by loved ones?

Have this conversation early, and have it frequently.  Check in with your family members and let them know if your decisions have changed.  Ask them what their choices would be, if they were unable to make their own decisions.

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

While having a conversation with your loved ones is an important first step, having a written, legal document can help to validate your choices, and allows for clarity in the event your heath care proxy and your loved ones might disagree on a course of treatment.  It’s time to fill out an Advance Directive.

Step 1: Download Delaware’s Advance Directive form here.

Step 2: Fill it out!  Read the document carefully, and note your choices.  Name your health care proxy.  Get witnesses or a notary public to watch you sign the document (the more witnesses, the more people can attest to your state of mind when you filled out the directive if there is a question later).

Step 3: Keep it with you!  This form is NOT one that needs to go in your Safety Deposit Box.  This is the form you want within easy reach if you have to go to the hospital in a hurry.  Put your original somewhere you can get your hands on it quickly.  Emergency personnel like EMTs and paramedics are trained to look for these types of forms on a refrigerator.  Place it in your car, or next to your couch.  Give a copy to your health care proxy, or a family member living nearby.

Step 4: You’re done!  Make sure to keep your family, friends, and proxy notified of any changes you make to the document (and give them a new copy if you do so).  Check in with your family and friends about every body’s wishes and decisions should the worst happen. Let your doctor know about your decisions regarding your medical treatment – give him or her a copy of your directive for your chart.

If you follow these steps, your wishes and decisions should be upheld, whether you can give voice to them or not.