The Most Important Health Document You’ll Ever Sign

shutterstock_168769247Health care providers have a morbid sense of humor. While it’s part of dealing with the stress of the profession, there is often an element of truth behind the jokes.

As an ER nurse I remember staff joking about having their resuscitation orders tattooed to their chest. There is nothing like seeing what goes into saving someone who has had a massive heart attack or been in a horrific accident, to think about what you would want done.

Much of this comes down to quality of life. What level of quality of life do you want to preserve? These are important things to think about, and plan for.

Modern medicine can keep the body alive for a long time, with the person being kept alive having varying levels of awareness and control over the situation.

The Advanced Directive makes your wishes clear to everyone involved in your care. It is an insurance policy, of sorts, that communicates your instructions to a future medical team that wants to honor your wishes.

The Advanced Directive

The advanced directive puts in writing exactly what you want done in case your survival threatened. You outline all of the lifesaving measures you do and do not want performed.

When developing an advanced directive it is important to determine what you consider quality of life. For example, if you were massively brain injured and could not eat, drink or move your own body, would you want to be kept alive with tube feedings and nursing care around the clock?shutterstock_159487742

Making these decisions in advance, having them in writing and ensuring your entire family  understands what you want saves heartache and suffering.  Both you and your family will be helped.

You may have already spoken with close family members about your wishes; however, it’s important to remember that making the decision to take someone off or leave someone on life support is agonizing, and heart breaking.

Having the directive in writing takes great pressure off the loved one involved in the decision. It also helps relieve them from feeling guilty about the decision.

Also identify a person to be your Power of Attorney for health care. Having power of attorney gives that person the right over anyone else to tell the medical team what to do, if you can’t speak for yourself.

Again, have a clear discussion about what you do or do not want done, so the person knows. Write it down, because it eases stress and pressure from the person making medical decisions for you. They know they are doing exactly what you want.


You can download an advanced directive for your state here:

You can also ask your primary care provider. They often have forms in the office.

It’s O.K. To Talk About it and Plan Ahead

We celebrate our birthdays throughout our lives, but often don’t want to think about dying, or wonder what our own dying process will be like.

Health care providers see illness, the dying process, and death at all stages of the lifespan. They understand there are many elements that go into a person’s death experience. These include:

  • Personal beliefs
  • Pain/suffering138226592
  • Worry about others
  • Fear
  • Relief there will be release
  • Acceptance and peace

There is much you can do to prepare yourself for your own death, regardless if it is from illness, sudden trauma or old age. Knowing that your wishes will be honored is a big comfort to many, and enables them to enjoy the life they are living without worrying about what will happen during the dying process.

[As a health care provider I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. We don’t think we will be injured, but there are thousands of accidents affecting individuals every single day. Be prepared so that if something happens, you are treated the way you want to be treated.]


The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed medical professional. It is essential that you discuss with your primary care provider any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.

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