What can I use my Advance Care Directive for?
An Advance Care Directive (“ACD”) can be used if you lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself; for example if you are in an accident or have an unexpected illness or injury. It can also apply if you have dementia or a similar condition, a sudden stroke or if you are unconscious or in a coma.
This could happen at any stage of life and if you have already written an Advance Care Directive, your Substitute Decision Makers (those people you chose to make decisions on your behalf) would already know how you would like them to make decisions for you.
An ACD allows you to decide ahead of time what matters most to you. It is an opportunity to let your Substitute Decision Makers know what you regard as important for your quality of life.
Having an ACD can give you peace of mind knowing that your wishes are known and will be respected should you be unable to communicate those wishes in the future and others need to make decisions for you.
When will my Advance Care Directive be used?
Although your Advance Care Directive is a valid document as soon as it has been signed and witnessed correctly, it can only be used when you do not have decision-making capacity to make decisions for yourself. Decision-making capacity means that you are able to understand the information given to you, the choices available, and the consequences of those decisions.
Who needs to know that I have an Advance Care Directive?
Once you have written your Advance Care Directive it is important that your Substitute Decision-Makers, others close to you and your doctor or other health care professionals know that you have one and what it includes. This will enable your care planning to become part of your routine healthcare so that your wishes are put into place when necessary.
What can I include in my Advance Care Directive?
Your Advance Care Directive can include your choices about future health care, end of life, living arrangements and personal matters.
An ACD is designed to help you identify, consider and communicate your wishes about the treatment you would prefer in later stages of life. This can include consenting in advance to treatment you might like to have, but can also include refusing treatment, for example not being resuscitated, even if that might result in death. You may also request life-sustaining measures to be withdrawn or withheld if you have a terminal illness with no chance of recovery or a severe illness or injury you will never recover from.
It can also express your general wishes including personal values, spiritual, religious or cultural beliefs relevant to your care and the type of care you would like; for example, wanting to die at home rather than in hospital. You are also able to reflect who you would like to be with you towards the end. You may even want a beloved pet to be by your side if it is possible.
Other things to consider expressing in your Advance Care Directive are whether you want to live as long as possible whatever it takes or do you regard quality of life as more important? If you would like to remain independent, then you can explain what this means to you. For example, remaining independent may mean living in your own home or it might mean being able to take care of your personal grooming or being able to communicate with others.
If all of your wishes are set out in one document, it is very clear what you would like to happen should the time arise where you are unable to communicate this yourself.
What can’t an Advance Care Directive be used for?
An Advance Care Directive is only used to give instructions relating to your healthcare and personal matters and cannot be used to make financial or legal decisions.
It is therefore recommended that as well as an Advance Care Directive, you have a Power of Attorney document under which you appoint one or more people to make those decisions about your future finances and legal matters.
An ACD cannot include anything illegal that would, if given effect, cause a health practitioner or another person to break the law.
An ACD is used as a guide and therefore cannot be used to demand specific health care or treatments. There is no obligation on the health practitioner to provide the health care if it is not considered to be of benefit to you.
An ACD is not a Will and is only effective to provide care while you are still alive. In contrast, a Will is only effective once you have died.
Want to know more about Powers of Attorney or do you already have a Power of Attorney and want to know more about why you should also have an Advance Care Directive? Or do you need to know more about Wills and why you should make sure you have one?
You can get in touch directly with today’s blog writer, Probate Clerk, NikkiHarder.
This blog has been authorised by Partner, PeterMyhill.
You can complete an Advance Care Directive online with acdAssist
acdAssist is a guided question and answer process, that you can complete at your own speed and in your own words. It is designed to identify your wishes and needs to those who you choose to make decisions for your care when you are no longer able to make those decisions yourself. These are then included in an Advance Care Directive for you to sign.