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Franciscan nurse practitioner: Take control of health care decisions with advance directives

Gloria Dillman

Many Americans are not familiar with the term advance directives. Yet, almost all will be asked at the end of life whether they have one and a health care representative.  

Advance directives are instructions for your health care needs when you cannot communicate your wishes or when your health care provider has decided you do not have the mental competence to make decisions. Your health care representative is the person you choose to make your health care decisions when you cannot make them yourself. You can verbally communicate your health care instructions to your representative or use written advance directive documents. Written documents can be included on your electronic health care chart and shared with all your providers and specialists.

This important topic should be brought up when you’re in good health and able to make your own decisions. Start by speaking to your primary health care provider, as well as your family. You may  bring your designated  health care representative to your doctor's appointment to help initiate the advance directive discussions.

Though advance directives are not required, they put you in charge of your health care in case you become incapacitated. Advance directive documents can be revised if your condition changes or you change your mind. And they can vary from state to state.

The Indiana State Department of Health offers information on advance directives at www.in.gov/isdh. Search for the Advance Directives Resource Center, where the "ISDH: Advance Directive" brochure and other advance directive forms can be downloaded.

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Similarly, the Illinois Department of Public Health offers the information at www.dph.illinois.gov. Click on Forms & Publications to find advance directives and download the forms and related information.

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Once you review these forms, speak to your health care provider and family, correctly fill out your forms, and have them applied to your electronic health care records. This will allow your health care provider and family to clearly understand your wishes for end-of-life care. This choice will preserve your autonomy even when you cannot make these important health care decisions.

If you have questions about advance directives, speak to your health care provider.

Gloria Dillman, a doctor of nurse practice and board-certified family nurse practitioner, specializes in internal medicine and pediatrics at Franciscan Physician Network in Dyer. Contact her at 219-934-2492.

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