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Do I Need a Health Care Advance Directive?

Are you a person who:

– is reluctant to talk about death?

– is experiencing declining health and doesn’t want to discuss loss of decision-making control?

– has a hard time making decisions, so nothing gets done?

– feels medical choices should be kept private?

– never thinks much about end-of-life health-care issues?

– thinks about getting professional help for legal affairs, but never gets around to it?

Many families do not discuss health-care plans until a crisis occurs. Then it may be too late. Once a person suffers mental incapacity, options are reduced and procedures become more complicated and costly. Others who may be unaware of a person’s wishes-such as social workers, physicians, lawyers, judges, court-appointed guardians, and conservators-may become involved in the decisions.

Planning ahead can:

– protect your family from being forced to make decisions in a crisis.

– ease decision-making during difficult times.

– decrease the likelihood of family dissention and possible court actions.

– reduce disagreements between siblings about “what Mom or Dad wants.”

– reduce emotional and financial stress.

– assure that an individual’s life-style, personal philosophies, and choices are known and protected.

– increase the options open to older adults and their families.

Planning ahead does not prevent all problems, but it does allow individuals to consider options before they’re needed, and it enables family and friends to make more effective decisions when end-of-life approaches.

Having a health care (sometimes called medical) advance directive allows you to tell your doctors and your family what medical treatment you do or do not want if you should become unable to make these decisions yourself. You are also able to designate someone as your health care power of attorney in your advance directive who will make medical decisions when you are unable to do so.

North Dakota has a form available to help you get started with your personal health care directive. It can be found at https://www.honoringchoicesnd.org/directives/. If you have further questions, contact the Ward County Extension office at 857-6450.

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