Advance directives are important legal documents that can allow a person to indicate what types of medical care they do and do not want to receive. In this article, we’ll define the term “advance directive” and explain how it may be used to try to reduce nursing home abuse.
Advance directives, also called advance healthcare directives or living wills, are legal documents that allow people to indicate their decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time. They are used to situations in which a person is too ill or hurt to express their wishes in the moment so that their family, friends, and healthcare professionals will know what to do.
Specifically, advance directives indicate which treatments a person does or does not want if they are dying or permanently unconscious, and whether they want to accept or refuse medical care. Issues addressed in advance directives include:
Advance directives can also name a power of attorney for health care, or a person who will be able to make healthcare decisions for an individual who is unable to do so themselves.
Advance directives can also be used to prevent nursing home abuse. Older adults can use advance directives to direct their own medical treatment ahead of time, protecting themselves against abusive decisions of third parties. They also have the ability to choose somebody that they trust to make health decisions for them. When the family and medical team know in advance what the individual does and does not want to be done to them, they will be able to use this information to ensure that the resident’s wishes are met even if they cannot communicate them anymore. This way, the staff members of the nursing home will not be able to freely make their own decisions in a way that may harm or injure the resident.
It is important to note that who the resident chooses as their power of attorney is crucial. This person will be able to exert a high degree of power and control over the individual’s care and life, allowing them the ability to abuse their position. As such, advance directive decisions should be made carefully, with much thought and consideration, and a trusted person should be chosen.