What are advance directives and why do you need them now more than ever? Read on to learn the basics and take the first steps towards protecting yourself and your loved ones during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The novel corona virus is so contagious, many medical facilitates have implemented policies that restrict ANY visitors to patients. Hospitals need to protect visitors from contracting the virus and also from visitors potentially spreading the virus within the hospital. Consequently, if you find yourself in need of medical care - you may find yourself alone.
The restrictions on visitations may inadvertently create communication breakdowns between your doctors and your family. Without visitation rights, your loved ones can’t speak with the doctors in person. If something happens that prevents you from being able to speak for yourself, advance directives may be your saving grace.
WHAT ARE ADVANCE DIRECTIVES?
Advance directives are written instructions for a person's medical wishes. They are legal documents by which a person makes provision for health care decisions in the event that, in the future, they becomes unable to make those decisions. Advance directives are an essential building block of comprehensive estate planning.
Some advance directives name a health care agent - someone you trust to make life-and-death decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. In Colorado, if you do not have advance directives in place, the law dictates that doctors are to locate all “interested persons” and select one to serve as the patient’s health care agent. With social distancing guidelines and no visitor policies, it may be difficult for medical facilities to track down the "right" person. This may cause tension among family members, and could even lead to care that is against your wishes.
Even if the "right" family member/loved one is speaking for you, having an advance directive in place gives them a stronger voice. The planning process of drawing up these documents can initiate difficult conversations about end-of-life care.
WHICH ADVANCE DIRECTIVES DO I NEED?
In Colorado, there are four main types of advance directives:
• Medical Durable Power of Attorney (MDPA)
• Living Will (Declarations as to Medical Treatment)
• Medical Order for Scope of Treatment (MOST)
• CPR Directive
We recommend that every adult have a Medical Durable Power of Attorney and a Living Will.
A Medical Durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a health care agent to make decisions on your behalf, should you be unable to do so yourself. Your appointed agent is obligated to act in accordance with your wishes and values. This directive also grants them access to medical records. MDPA's should be a priority in your planning process.
A Living Will, formally referred to as “Declarations as to Medical Treatment,” instructs physicians regarding artificial life-support when patients cannot speak for themselves or are in a persistent vegetative state. This is crucial given the nature of COVID-19, and the possibility for affected persons to be intubated or in a medically induced coma.
A Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment form, or MOST, is for patients who are seriously or chronically ill and in frequent contact with providers. MOSTs provide specific instructions to providers about which medical interventions to perform or to avoid and must be signed by both the patient and the provider.
A CPR Directive (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) instructs providers not to resuscitate if a person’s heart or breathing stops. This type of advance directive is typically for people who are frail or seriously ill and for whom CPR may do more harm than good.
Do you have more questions about advance directives in Colorado? We're here to help. Call us at 303-761-4900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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