I’ve asked another friend of mine to contribute from one of her areas of expertise on a topic that we should all should get into place whether or not there is a pandemic.
It’s more important than ever to have an Advance Directive/Health Care Directive/Living Will prepared. It doesn’t take a long time to fill the form out and have it notarized. These are best done with the help of a healthcare provider, not a lawyer. Yes, these are legal documents but lawyers do not have the education or background to educate the public like nurses and doctors do. It is needed to explain what various lifesaving methods entail and chances of recovery from trauma or diseases.
A well written Advance Directive will have three components:
1) It will identify a Healthcare Agent (your advocate) if something were to happen to your health. I strongly encourage individuals to choose two Agents, a primary and an alternate. Choose someone who knows you well and cares about your wellbeing that will follow your healthcare wishes and speak up when you can no longer do that for yourself. Normally people select their spouse as their primary Healthcare Agent. The other should be someone who is younger than yourself or spouse.
2) It will document your wishes for medical care. This is the largest section of the Advance Directive. There are free forms from the Minnesota Advance Directives, including their worksheet. The Mayo Clinic Advance Directive instructions document and Advanced Directive Form are the best I’ve ever seen in my career. The University of Minnesota Extension service also has a PDF form that can be filled in online. One does NOT need to be a Mayo Clinic patient to utilize their form. In fact, Minnesota is one state where Advance Directives are accepted from any organization and can be drafted anywhere. Please check the rules for your own state or country and if particular forms are needed.
3) It will document your wishes for after you die. Your choices for burial or cremation can be documented here, including if a burial plot and funeral home expenses have been identified and paid. Information about a service can also be outlined in this area. Once a person has died, Minnesota regulations state that unless being investigated, the body needs to be processed through embalming or cremation within 72 hours. Again, check the rules for your state or country.
Once an Advance Directive is completed, it is essential to have multiple copies made and have them notarized. Minnesota legally allows this paperwork to be witnessed by two individuals, but if traveling domestically, many states require Advance Directives to be notarized. Several copies are needed, one for yourself, for each of your physicians if they are with different medical organizations, one for each Healthcare Agent, and a spare copy.
Paula Johns, RN and Death Investigator
Educator on Advance Directives and The Final Checklist: Final Act of Love (Death Workbook) and teaches privately and at several Community Education programs in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area.