• Richelle Godwin

What are Advance Directives?

“I care a lot,” we’ve heard those words a lot. If 2020 has taught us anything other than how to care for ourselves and that Netflix truly controls a lot of our evenings, it's that the new Netflix show, “I Care a Lot” will definitely inspire you to get your affairs in order!

Minor Netflix spoiler alert...how to get your affairs in order before you might lose everything.

Minor spoiler alert — In “I Care Lot,” an older woman, Jennifer Peterson (played by Dianne Wiest) in the film, was suddenly court ordered out of her house and into a dementia unit in a nursing home. Meanwhile, all of her stuff was not only rummaged through like a thief at night, but was sold to the highest bidder, her mind was questioned, and her dignity was not really considered.

At a point, when she was highly medicated and talking with her “legal guardian,” Marla Grayson, whom she had just met a few days earlier, and said, “I...AM...YOUR...WORST...MISTAKE.” I threw my arms up into the air and cheered because that is exactly how we should all feel if we were ever to find ourselves in this precarious position. My advanced directives, legal documents, and power of attorney are all in order and these are prepared for speaking on my behalf when I cannot speak or am told I am mentally incapable by the court.

To take the steps and proclaim I care about myself enough to prepare for all these questions and potential scenarios, and hand them off. Here you go...here’s my list of everything I want medically in case I am unable to communicate. And no one can repute or extinguish my wishes, because I not only thought about this, but put “pen to paper” and filled out these documents. This is something we really all should do and one that always seems like a task for tomorrow.

Advanced Directives are the written instructions for your medical end of life wishes, naming who your Durable Power of Attorney is/are. Depending on where you live, in the United States, it can be different with the legal paperwork. You can download your specific state and fill it out. For example, in Washington State, the basic form includes:

Just a note though, in Washington State, if you are pregnant and your doctor is aware of your pregnancy, your Advance Directive will have no force or effect during the course of your pregnancy. Other states may have similar rules, that is why it's best to have support while filling out these forms. Also, Advanced Directives do not focus on financial or other money issues.

You can also use the forms to start the conversation for an Advanced Care Planning session with your medical team, family and loved ones. It outlines what you want, who you’ve chosen as your power of attorney and how you would like to be cared for. These are instructions for your loved ones to follow for your medical end-of-life wishes. This session helps guide these outlines and steers the conversations to everyone present, making sure each person has awareness and clarity for your instructions. These documents only go into effect when you cannot make your decisions known and terminate upon your death.

If Jennifer had had any of this, it would have changed the course of her losing her home, her belongings, and of course the judge would have potentially changed his “approval” of having a state appointed legal guardian control her every move to one she appointed as her power of attorney.

It’s very important to know that Advanced Directives are NOT a legal document. But again, instructions to support legal paperwork and let your wishes be known to your medical team, family and loved ones. It outlines who your Power of Attorney is/are and your medical wishes.

So, let’s not be a trapped Jennifer, fill out your Advance Directives and have an Advance Care Planning meeting be the game changer to your life. At Gentle Passage Doula Collective, we offer these services so that you can be at peace while living your life. We look forward to working with you soon and having you in the driver’s seat.

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The tools, resources and information does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only, not advice or guarantee of outcome. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the Gentle Passage Doula Collective Website, downloaded resources and/or educational material, or misinterpreted the information/context/educational sessions. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911. Gentle Passage Doula Collective and its members are not responsible for errors and omissions in reporting or explanation. No individuals, including those under our active care, should use the information, resources or tools contained within to self-diagnosis or self-treat any health-related condition. Gentle Passage Doula Collective gives no assurance or warranty regarding the accuracy, timeliness or applicability or the content.