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Give a Gift for Seasons to Come: An Advance Directive

Advance Directive

Most people are not prepared for the end of life. With advances in life expectancy, decreasing mortality thanks to public health, sanitation and modern medicine, end-of-life issues are increasingly pushed to the back burner. Over the past hundred years, death has shifted from being viewed as a natural certainty to a catastrophic event. And despite the advances in medicine, technology and the overall health of the population, one figure has remained unchanged – human mortality remains a steady 100%. If an event is going to occur with 100% certainty, the logical next step is to make sure that as individuals and families, we are prepared for this event.

Putting off dealing with end-of-life choices and advanced care planning because of their unpleasantness is a common issue. However, given today’s medical landscape, the less prepared you are for your own death, the more unpleasant, traumatic and drawn out it is likely going to be. And while as individuals going through the dying process may feel physical pain and fear, a significant amount of emotional trauma is sustained by family caregivers. Studies have shown that family caregivers of a dying patient often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Having important conversations and completing an advance directive are two of the most precious gifts we can give to those we love the most.

A consistent observation made is that patients and families who have openly discussed end-of-life issues and advanced care planning are less distressed and more at peace when a crisis that may signal end-of-life hits. This does not diminish the pain of losing a loved one, but being prepared for end-of-life emotionally and spiritually allows the wishes of the patient to be respected.

It is never too early to have this conversation until it is too late. We never really know when we are going to be faced with these difficult decisions. If you already have an advance directive, you should re-examine it at least every decade, in the event of a divorce or other and major family change, or if you are diagnosed with a serious health condition.

It is easy to complete your own advance directive at midlandhealth.org/ACP or at MyDirectives.com. There is also a MyDirectives app available for iOS. 

Using MyDirectives is easy:
  • Answer questions in your own words or pick from a selection of the most common answers
  • Add your thoughts with as much detail as you wish, even video responses
  • Share your plan with your loved ones and healthcare agents
  • Change your answers at any time (Doctors will only be able to access your most recently signed version)
  • Hospitals linked to MyDirectives can access your care plan when you are admitted

Help us make Midland the healthiest community in Texas – today, and in the seasons to come. Enjoy the peace of mind for you and those you love.

This post was written by Dr. Bob Dent, Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Midland Health.

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