What are Common Myths About Advanced Care Directives?
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What are Common Myths About Advanced Care Directives?

What are Advanced Care Directives? What are the truths about advanced care directives? This article provides common myths followed by truths about advanced care directives so that you can make more informed decisions about your plan!

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Thinking about the end of one's life makes most people uncomfortable. That's the most common reason people delay making an estate plan. Estate plans not only include Wills, but they also encompass advanced care directives. An Advanced Care Directive is a legal document that includes detailed instructions for your medical care in the event that you can no longer communicate your own wishes. The most popular advanced care directives are the Living Will and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. (Some jurisdictions refer to this as a Health Care Proxy). In this article, we'll discuss the most common myths about advanced care directives.

Myth: "I'm Too Young and Healthy to Need an Advanced Care Directive"

If you do your research, you'll notice that many articles say that Advanced Care Directives are mostly important for the elderly and aging population. As people grow older, they become more susceptible to chronic illnesses and medical conditions that may lead to periods of incapacity. 

Truth:  Everyone Should Have an Advanced Care Directive

Everyone should have a clear and legally documented set of instructions about their healthcare preferences. Although you are unlikely to have an unforeseen and sudden medical crisis, life is unpredictable. Even younger people are in serious accidents or have sudden illnesses. Having an Advanced Care Directive ensures that you receive the care you want and that your loved ones and healthcare providers are aware of your preferences.

Myth: "Creating an ACD Means Giving Up Control."

Some people mistakenly believe that creating an Advanced Care Directive means relinquishing control over their medical care. 

Truth: An Advanced Care Directive Gives You More Control

In reality, an Advanced Care Directive gives you more control by allowing you to specify your healthcare preferences. It provides guidance to healthcare providers and ensures that your wishes are followed when you cannot make decisions for yourself.

Myth: "Advanced Care Directives Are Only for End-of-Life Decisions."

While Advanced Care Directives do cover end-of-life decisions, they are not limited to that context. These documents can also address preferences regarding specific medical treatments, surgeries, organ donation, and other healthcare choices. They are comprehensive documents that can be tailored to your individual needs and values.

Myth: "Doctors Will Ignore My ACD."

Another misconception is that healthcare providers may disregard an individual's Advanced Care Directive. People often fear that doctors will simply make the decisions that they feel is best, regardless of whether the person or their family agrees with them.

Truth:  Doctors Must Follow Advanced Care Directives

 In reality, Advanced Care Directives are legally binding documents, and healthcare professionals are generally obligated to follow your documented preferences. However, open communication with your healthcare team and family members is crucial to ensure your ACD is honored.

Myth: "Creating an Advanced Care Directive is Complicated and Costly."

Some people believe that creating an ACD is a complex and expensive process. While it's advisable to consult with an attorney, many states offer free or low-cost Advanced Care Directive forms that you can complete on your own. Platforms like FastWill make this process even easier and are very cost-effective.

Myth: "I Can't Change My ACD Once It's Created."

Many people fear that once they make an Advanced Care Directive, their decision is locked in and they can't change their minds.

Truth:  You Can Change Your Advanced Care Directive

Advanced Care Directives are not set in stone. You can revise or update your ACD at any time as long as you are of sound mind and able to make decisions. Life circumstances, healthcare preferences, and values can change, and your ACD should reflect these changes to remain relevant.

Myth: "Only Family Members Can Be Named as Decision-Makers."

Not everyone trusts their family to make healthcare decisions on their behalf. Others may simply want to avoid placing that burden on their close relations.

Truth: Anyone Can Be Your Advanced Care Directive Agent

While family members can be named as healthcare proxies or agents in your Advanced Care Directive, you can choose any trusted individual to fulfill this role, regardless of their familial relationship to you. It's essential to select someone who understands your values and preferences and is willing to advocate for your healthcare choices.

Myth:  "ACDs Are Only for DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) Orders."

People often fear that Advanced Care Directives are No Not Resuscitate Orders. DNRs are written by a doctor. These orders instruct health care providers not to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation if a person's heart stops beating or the person is no longer breathing. Many people would prefer not to have a DNR.

Truth: ACDs Don't Need to Include a DNR

While Advanced Care Directives can include preferences regarding resuscitation, they cover a broader range of healthcare decisions. ACDs allow you to specify your preferences for various treatments, pain management, organ donation, and more. They are not limited solely to DNR orders.

Myth: "I Don't Need an ACD Because My Family Knows My Wishes."

Even if your family is aware of your wishes, having an ACD in writing provides legal clarity and can help avoid potential disputes or misunderstandings among family members during stressful times. It also ensures that your healthcare preferences are honored, regardless of family dynamics.

Myth: "ACDs Are Only for 'Death with Dignity' or Euthanasia."

People conflate Advanced Care Directives with euthanasia, believing that signing off on an ACD means that the physicians are legally authorized to end their life. 

Truth: Advanced Care Directives Don't Authorize Euthanasia

While ACDs can address end-of-life care, they are not synonymous with "death with dignity" or euthanasia documents. ACDs primarily focus on ensuring that your healthcare choices are respected, which may include a range of treatments, including those aimed at extending life or providing comfort.

In conclusion, understanding the truth behind these myths is essential for making informed decisions about creating an Advanced Care Directive. These documents empower individuals to take control of their healthcare decisions, ensuring that their preferences are honored, regardless of their age or health status. Consulting with legal and healthcare professionals can help dispel misconceptions and provide guidance on creating a comprehensive and legally sound ACD.

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