In my last post I explained what an Advance Healthcare Directive is. It’s a form for recording your preferences about your healthcare in case you are unable to communicate with those who are looking after you. I went through the form to show that it’s not particularly complicated, although it does need thinking about and talking about.
In this post I’ll discuss who needs to know about your Directive and who you need to discuss it with.
I’ll take the discussion part first. Your close family need to know what your wishes are. I told my adult children and my wife that I was preparing the directive and that I would let them have copies when it was done. I also gave them the general outline of my wishes: I don’t wish to be kept alive at all costs if I am seriously impaired intellectually or if my life would be greatly restricted. They know about my present life and what the various aspects of it mean to me. In other words, they understand what I regard as essential to the quality of my life.
Incidentally, at the height of the pandemic, when there was serious pressure on Intensive Care facilities, I told them that I had no wish to be put on a ventilator.
When I had filled in the form (except for the witnesses and the GP), I left the form in at the Health Centre and said I‘d like to talk about it when I was next in. When we had the chat and the GP happily signed the Directive and said that it would be put on file. (I sent a scanned copy later with all the signatures on to make that a bit easier.)
I was very encouraged by the doctors’ attitude when I saw another doctor in the practice. The doctor glanced at my record and said brightly, ‘I see you’ve got an Advance Directive in place with us.’ I felt this was very positive. I felt that the doctors knew about directives and that it would come to light at the proper time and be respected.
That brings me to the second question of who needs to know about your Directive, once the nearest and dearest and your GP know.
Ideally there would be a system in place so that any healthcare professional with whom you have dealings should know that it’s in place. After all, we might be rushed into hospital after an accident of some kind which would give us no time to prepare the ground.
There is no such system in place, so, if you have a chronic condition with regular medical consultations, you should give each consultant a copy. Otherwise, all you can do is make sure that you and yours know where it is so they can find it quickly.
I recently consulted a solicitor about my will and related matters and notified him of the Directive. (More about that in later posts.)
It is also worth discussing with other friends and family. Some will be a bit resistant to talking about death and related matters, but never mind that. The more conversations there are about end of life the better and the easier it will be for all of us to make our arrangements and to deal with illness and death, individually and in society at large.
In the next blog, I’ll have something to say about the legal standing of the Advance Healthcare Directive and some other ways of dealing with end-of-life issues.