What is an Advance Directive?

Posted on Jan 28th 2019 by Anne Ebright

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What if something happens where you can’t make decisions about your medical care? Do your family and loved ones know your wishes?

It’s a topic everyone thinks about, but many avoid doing something about. You may think end-of-life planning is just for older adults, or for those living with an ongoing health condition. The reality is that people of all ages—you, your parents, and even your children—should have an advance directive in place. If you are a caregiver for a friend or loved one, you’ll want to make sure you know their wishes and who is responsible for making decisions if they can’t.

So, why is Florida Blue talking about it? The State of Florida wants all Floridians to understand the importance of advance care planning. We support this initiative. Many people hesitate completing an advance directive. Maybe you worry you won’t get any care if you say you don’t want certain types of care. Or you may find it hard to make decisions about the kind of care you want in the future when you don’t know what that will be like. Now is the time to make sure you and your family members’ wishes are clearly understood, just in case.

An advance directive lets people know your health care desires ahead of time. Your family, friends, doctors, and caregivers will clearly know your wishes. Make sure you give a copy of your advance directive to your primary care doctor and any other doctors involved in your health care.

Ideally, an advance directive should be a “living document.” This means you should update it throughout your life as health and relationships change.  For example, you may not want a former family member making decisions about your health care. Or you may be more open over time to treatments you might have rejected when you were younger. If your wishes change, the document can be changed. You don’t need a lawyer to write or revise an advance directive, but you may need to get it witnessed and notarized.

According to the California Health Care Foundation, only about one in four Americans has completed an advance directive. The earlier you start having these conversations, the easier it is to bring up the topic later in life.

Different types of advance directives

There are four types of advance directives recognized in the state of Florida:

  • Living will – A living will explains the care you do or do not want. In it, you can state your wishes about receiving:

o   CPR (if your breathing stops or your heart stops beating)

o   Feeding through a tube into your vein or stomach

o   Extended care on a breathing machine

o   Tests, medicines, or surgeries

o   Dialysis or blood transfusions

o   Comfort care (pain medication, sedatives)

A living will does not name someone to make health care decisions for you.

You should also know a living will is not the same as a “last will and testament.” A “last will and testament” explains a person’s wishes for settling their estate after they die.

Each state has laws about living wills. You can find out about the laws in Florida from your doctors, the Florida State Bar Association, and most hospitals.

  • Health care surrogate designation – Someone you choose, who knows your treatment wishes and is willing to carry them out. 
  • Durable power of attorney – A person you choose, who becomes your attorney-in-fact. A durable power of attorney can make all decisions about your medical care and your financial affairs when you no longer can do so.
  • Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) order – A DNR order needs to be set up before an emergency occurs. A DNR order allows you to choose whether you want CPR in an emergency.
    • It is specific about CPR.
    • It does not have instructions for other treatments, such as pain medicine, other medicines, or nutrition.

Important! In order for this form (DNR order) to be legally valid it must be printed on yellow paper. EMS and medical personnel are only required to honor the form if it is printed on yellow paper. The link above will print a yellow form if you choose color printing.

Know your options so you make decisions that are right for you and your family. Careful planning is a good start. Talk with your family, friends, doctors and spiritual counselors. Get peace of mind because others know your wishes.


Filed under: Medicare  

Anne Ebright

Anne Ebright is a part of the Enterprise Communications team in Jacksonville, Florida. She is passionate about helping Medicare customers make sense of their health coverage. With six children all grown up, she enjoys spending time with her husband, walking their Yorkie and two Doberman Pinschers, and playing the piano.

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