PRESQUE ISLE — Today (April 16) is National Healthcare Decisions Day. What better day to think about completing an advance directive if you haven’t already done so.
“Oftentimes people think of an advance directive as something for older or extremely ill people, but that’s just not true,” says Judi Pimental, FNP. “A medical crisis can happen at any time, even if you are young and healthy. Having an advance directive in place gives you the ability to state your wishes and make your own decisions regarding care.”
An advance directive is a way for individuals to give consent for certain situations where they might want or not want medical treatment. It can also be used to appoint someone to make decisions for them if they can’t do so themselves.
“An advance directive is an important step for both you and your loved ones. Not only does it help ensure your decisions are respected, but it frees your loved ones from the pressure of having to make critical medical care decisions during the emotional turmoil of an emergency,” explains Pimental.
An advance directive has two parts. The healthcare power of attorney addresses things such as who you want to make medical decisions for you when you can’t make them yourself, when they can start making decisions, and who you do not want involved in making decisions. The living will portion is a record of what end of life measures you want, who your primary care provider is, if you want to be an organ donor, and what plans you may have for a funeral or burial arrangement.
In Maine, an advance directive does not need to be notarized but must be witnessed by two people, over the age of 18, who are not listed as your healthcare powers of attorney. They must watch you sign the paperwork and then sign it themselves. Once complete, a copy should be given to your provider and placed in your hospital medical record. You should keep the original with your important paperwork.
“We know this process might be daunting to some, and we want to help,” says Ashlee Duff, FNP. Duff and Pimental are both providers at Northern Light Primary Care in Fort Fairfield. Both are currently accepting appointments with patients who would like hands-on assistance completing this important paperwork. “We can help you complete it, provide witnesses to sign it, and also make the copies needed for your medical record. You leave the appointment with your completed original in hand.”
Those who are comfortable completing the process on their own are encouraged to set time aside to do so. Advance directive packets should be available at all primary care offices.