Understanding Advance Directives
No matter how hard we try to envision the future, advance directives
and living wills don't cover every situation. In theory, these documents
are meant to ensure clear-headed decision-making about emotional decisions
regarding end-of-life care. Kathy
Glasmire, Associate Director of Sacramento Healthcare Decisions,
warns that, "the advance directive documents tend to focus on a procedure
or a treatment, rather than on what the goal is at the other side of
the treatment." In other words, the forms themselves cannot replace
the heartrending decisions that families have to make but they can provide
an opportunity to begin an end-of-life care conversation for you and
Glasmire also suggests that having this discussion in advance encourages
the notion that a family is comfortable with the decision they've made,
that they can be caring and well-informed advocates for their loved
Written instructions specifying the type of future medical treatment
to be used in the event you become unable to speak for yourself. Advance
Directives are state-specific and fall into two categories: Living Will
and Durable Power of Attorney.
A person who provides care for the elderly and/or ill so that they may
remain in the home. It is estimated that 80 percent of at-home care
received by older Americans is provided by family members - spouses,
children, grandchildren and other relatives.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A document that grants another the power to make decisions concerning
medical care in the event you cannot make those decisions yourself.
Also called a "health care proxy", the appointed person is authorized
to speak for you any time you are unable to make your own medical decisions.
An individualized program of support for people within the final stages
of a terminal illness and their families. Hospice care may take place
in the patients home or in a hospice facility. The emotional,
psychological, and spiritual care also includes the family that continues
to receive ongoing support even after the patient dies. In 1999 almost
one-half million Americans took advantage of this special service.
Written instructions specifying the type of medical care to be used
at the end-of-life once the patient is incapacitated.
Care which focuses on providing comfort and relief from suffering with
the goal of ensuring the highest quality of life for the terminally
ill. Also called "comfort care", palliative care helps the
dying person remain at home and a functioning part of the family. Palliative
care may also include support for the patients mental health and
for Caring: Americas Voices for the Dying, Zen
Hospice Project, Growth
House, Inc., Caregiver