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4 Myths About Advanced Directives

The topic of advanced directives, durable power of attorney for health care, and other end of life planning is not an easy one to approach, but planning ahead can help save you and your family additional stress. It’s also easier to navigate through the processes with a complete understanding of them. An advanced directive is a written document prepared to specify a person’s wishes once they are no longer able to communicate them. These are four common myths about advanced directives.

Myth #1: There’s no reason for me to have an advanced directive right now.

End of life planning is not an easy or pleasant topic of conversation, but discussing it early can help you and your family avoid even more stress in the future. It’s much easier to consider what your wishes and values are when you are healthy, and it’s important to take the time to identify them and communicate them to your family. If your wishes are not made clear, they cannot be honored.

Myth #2: An advanced directive is the same as a Do Not Resuscitate Order: if I have one, no life-sustaining medical care will be provided to me.

While there are binding medical orders like Do Not Resuscitate Orders and Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, the goal of an advanced directive is to guide those appointed to make treatment decisions once a person’s wishes can no longer be expressed. Advanced directives can specify the exact level of care a person is comfortable with. The State of New Jersey provides a form that allows people to designate under which specific circumstances they would want care continued, withdrawn or withheld altogether.

Myth #3: If I’ve already designated a healthcare proxy, there’s no need for me to fill out an advanced directive.

A healthcare proxy, also called a healthcare representative or medical power of attorney, is a person designated to make medical decisions on behalf of someone else. It’s important to select someone who is comfortable with this level of responsibility and making difficult choices on your behalf. The guidance from your advanced directive can alleviate some of the pressure of this responsibility.

Myth #4: If I fill out an Advanced Directive or appoint a healthcare proxy, I will no longer be able to make my own medical decisions.

An advanced directive helps to guide a healthcare proxy through a series of difficult decisions. However, a healthcare proxy does not assume their role until a physician examines someone and determines that they do not have the cognitive capacity to understand their condition, treatment options and the consequences of choosing one treatment path over another. As long as a person maintains the ability to make informed decisions about their medical care, they will continue to make their own decisions.

We know that end of life planning can be difficult, but we strive to provide comfort and clarity to our clients. Call (856) 242-8151 for guidance during this process.