Who will speak for you, if you cannot speak for yourself? Who will be prepared to carry out your wishes if you become incapacitated by stroke or brain injury and cannot make decisions? The answer to that important question is an Advance Directive, written instructions that detail the care you want in the event you cannot make decisions or express yourself. An Advance Directive means you are the one making decisions for yourself—in advance. Rather than assume that your family and your doctor know what you want, you inform them—clearly, specifically and in writing. An Advance Directive document identifies the person you have chosen to make decisions for you and lists the treatments you consent to. “Any adult over 18 should have an Advance Directive,” says Jaime Nemeth, D.O., Medical Director for the Palliative Care Medicine Program at St. Clair Hospital. “Most people don’t have one and have never discussed it with their families. I often hear, ‘I’m healthy; I don’t need that.’ But an accident can happen to anyone.”
Dr. Nemeth is helping St. Clair with an initiative that encourages people to complete an Advance Directive. To make that easier, the hospital is providing the forms to every patient admitted to the hospital or who is treated in the emergency room; help in completing the forms is also provided. Patients will receive copies for themselves, their surrogate and their physician and a copy will be kept on file at the hospital.
“An Advance Directive is not required, but is good to have,” says Dr. Nemeth, “especially if you have a life-limiting illness, such as cancer or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). An Advance Directive brings peace of mind; they are for you, but also for your loved ones. Most of all, they assure your wishes will be carried out according to your values and beliefs.”
For more information on Advance Directives, please visit www.stclair.org.