Adding Clarity To Advance Directives
Understanding Advance Directives can be an intimidating task. Because of this, people ask me all the time what types of forms are the most-important to have as their loved one ages. While I’m not an expert on all the forms that are available, I do have a few on my list. I believe these are necessary for honoring and protecting your loved one. Therefore, this is crucial when a health crisis or issue arises and a family member or In Home Care caregiver isn’t physically present.
The Yellow Dot Program
The first is Georgia’s Yellow Dot Program. This is a free program that may help save the life of you or your loved one. When seconds count, it is critical to make sure first responders have the information they need. Providing information on medical conditions, medications, and allergies will help medical professionals make the best decision about your treatment. This form is extremely important if you live alone and have a medical emergency. This also lets first responders know that you have completed a personal information form and where they can find it.
How does it work? It’s as simple as filling out a form and placing a Yellow Dot decal on your vehicle or near the main entrance to your home. Now you will be able to alert first responders that vital medical information is stored close by either in your glove compartment or on the refrigerator in your home.
How does one participate in the program? The Georgia Yellow Dot Program is being piloted in specific counties. Chatham and Bryan counties are now in the process of offering this program and the Greater Savannah Coalition On Aging (GSCOA) is helping to promote the program. As a member of the Coalition, please contact me if you would like more information and the form for the Yellow Dot Program. You will need a packet for your home and for each vehicle you drive. Packets should be completed per person.
The Georgia Advance Directive
Another form is the Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare. All competent adults have the right to be informed about their medical treatment and to refuse that treatment for any reason. Sometimes this can be confusing, especially while one is a hospital patient or is in need of medical care. The best way to be sure your voice is heard in a medical setting is to write down your wishes in advance.
As of July 1, 2007, residents of Georgia now have one document called the “Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare.” This new format combines the old Georgia Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare into one comprehensive document. Old forms completed prior to this date are still valid and will still be accepted as the patient’s legal wishes.
The new directive has four parts:
Part One – Health Care Agent
With this part you are able to choose someone to make health care decisions for you. This is for when you cannot (or do not want to) make health care decisions for yourself. The person you choose is called a health care agent and this person can make decisions for you after your death. These decisions often pertain to an autopsy, organ donation, body donation, and final disposition of your body. Hence, You should talk to your chosen health care agent about this important role.
Part Two – Treatment Preferences
With this part you are able to state your treatment preferences if you have a terminal condition or if you are in a state of permanent unconsciousness. Part Two only becomes pertinent if you are unable to communicate your treatment preferences. Reasonable and appropriate efforts will be made to communicate with you about your treatment preferences before Part Two becomes effective. You should talk to your family and others close to you about your treatment preferences.
Part Three – Guardianship
With this part you are able to nominate a person to be your guardian should one ever be needed.
Part Four – Effectiveness and Signatures
Lastly, this part requires your signature and the signatures of two witnesses. You must complete Part Four if you have filled out any other part of this form. Important points to remember regarding advanced directives include the following:
- The person must be a fully competent adult to complete an Advance Directive. These documents are only in effect if you are not able to express your own thoughts and wishes about treatment issues.
- Advance Directives only cover healthcare decisions and have nothing to do with your financial affairs.
- You can change your mind at any time, by completing a new form, or telling someone that you have different wishes.
- You do not need a lawyer to complete the forms and they do not have to be notarized.
- Finally, you will need two competent adults to witness these forms and the witnesses cannot be members of your family.
In conclusion, be sure to make plenty of copies of your advance directives. Keep one with you, give a copy to your health care providers, and keep one in safekeeping for good measure. With the right amount of planning and the right forms, you too can be ready in the event of a medical crisis.
Prepare well my friends.