Advance healthcare directives are valuable documents that many people add to their estate plans. Colorado recommends that those with serious health concerns and anyone over the age of 65 create basic advance directives.
Of course, many people who are younger than retirement age and still theoretically healthy could also benefit from having advance directives in place. No one knows when they might experience a sudden medical event or accident around the home that will leave the medically fragile.
Your advance directive is an opportunity to provide specific instructions regarding the healthcare you want to receive when you are incapacitated in some way. What choices can you explain in an advance directive?
Life support preferences
There are situations in which the human body would naturally likely succumb to injuries or illness but where survival is possible with medical support. Feeding tubes, respiration assistance and artificial defibrillation are all technological advances that can keep someone alive when their body is not capable of sustaining life independently.
In some cases, life support may eventually lead to recovery. Other times, an individual is kept technically alive but is unable to regain consciousness. If you have strong feelings about different kinds of life support, you can make those preferences known in writing to take the pressure off of your loved ones.
If you are relatively young and healthy, the possibility of opioid addiction might be a bigger concern for you in a medical emergency than short-term pain. On the other hand, for those already diagnosed with a terminal illness, more liberal pain management may be their preference.
Family members will obviously want to defer to your choices on this matter, so providing clear instructions can help them give you the support you would like.
In a scenario where someone is in a persistent vegetative state or on life support but unlikely to recover, medical professionals can make use of certain organs and tissues for the benefit of other parties. Some people with chronic illnesses or unusual medical conditions, like inverted organs, choose to leave their bodies for medical research. It is common for families to struggle with choices about anatomical gifts if not provided written direction.
Talking clearly about your preferences will make it easier for your family to follow your wishes. Thinking about different medical issues that could arise in an emergency can help you add appropriate healthcare directives to your estate plan.