Making health care decisions for ourselves is difficult enough. But making health care decisions for others, someone we care about, can be overwhelming. And when the decisions to be made concern the business of the end of life, it can seem near impossible. Even when advance directives are in place, such as a living will to explain your loved one’s wishes, it can’t cover every possible medical eventuality. So how can you advocate for your loved ones when they can’t make their own decisions?
Rely on advance directives when possible, if available. There are two types of documents that make up advance directives. Your loved one may have named you as their healthcare representative or proxy with durable power of attorney in healthcare. This means you will have the legal authority to make decisions they cannot, and the responsibility to advocate for them.
The other is a health care directive, more commonly known as a living will. This document will state which specific treatments you do or do not want. For example, some people will elect not to receive intubation or CPR. Anyone providing care at any level will need a copy of these documents, and you should discuss your loved one’s wishes with doctors or anyone else working at their bedside.
When end of life care happens at home, a special order completed by a doctor may be necessary to ensure that any emergency personnel know what to do or what not to do. In most states, this medical order is called a Portable or Medical Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment.