Ask the Experts: Advance Directives
Advance directives (also known as advanced care planning) can be a difficult topic to think about but is something every adult should consider. Serious injuries and illnesses, including cancer, can happen at any age and may put you in a situation where you are unable to make your own health care decisions. Planning for the future with an advance directive is an important step toward making sure you receive the care you want.
What are advance directives?
Brittany Greig and Nancy Yeisley: An advance directive is a legal document that goes into effect only if you are unable to speak for yourself. It helps others know what type of medical care you would want or not want. It also allows you to express your values and wishes. An advance directive is a living document and can be reviewed and updated as your situation changes.
Why do I need advance directives?
BG: If there is ever a time where you are unable to speak for yourself, advance directives serve as a legal document that details your decisions you carefully made regarding what type of medical care you would or would not want to receive. You can also appoint someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf, should you be unable to speak for yourself. Clearly communicating your wishes with your appointed person will better ensure your wishes are carried out and the appointed person feels comfortable in doing so.
When should I complete my advance directives?
BG: Any adult can complete advance directives at any time. It is always best to plan for the future, before a medical emergency arises, so your wishes can be best carried out.
How will my doctor know that I have an advance directive?
BG: Continue to have open and honest conversations with your loved ones, and in particular your appointed person. Also, be sure to provide copies to your primary care provider and hospital.
NY: If you complete your advance directive through the Community Cancer Center, we will make several copies for you as well as put them in your electronic medical record at Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa, UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital and/or your provider and hospital of choice.
How do I complete advance directives?
NY: Schedule an appointment with Brittany or I at the Community Cancer Center by calling (319) 369-7473. We will explain the advance directives and notarize the documents for you, all free of charge.
Where can I go if I have more questions about advance directives?
BG & NY: You can attend our Advance Care Planning Educational Event on September 19th from 4-5:30 p.m. Contact the Community Cancer Center at (319) 558-4876 for more information. Also, you can visit www.unitypoint.org/cedarrapids/ensure-your-wishes-are-known.aspx to learn more and to schedule a free facilitated conversation.
Brittany Greig, LMSW and Nancy Yeisley, MSW, LISW, OSW-C, are oncology social workers at the Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center.