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Yesterday discussed planning for an emergency, but today is National Healthcare Decisions Day, the right time to talk about deciding what you want in the event that you need long-term medical care. Many patients aren't aware of their rights and their ability to legally ensure that they'll be taken care of properly, according to their wishes. Involvement in your own care is vital to good health; read on below to learn how you can advocate for yourself!
This is the most important thing you can do as a patient. Ask questions about your treatment plan and symptoms; prepare them beforehand so you know the right questions to ask your doctor. Get a second opinion and beyond if necessary. If you're staying in the hospital or getting surgery, ask questions about how they prevent the spread of infections.
If your loved ones are clear on your treatment plan, medications, and symptoms. Keep a list of all your medications and dosages, and give them to anyone you live with and anyone who may pick up prescriptions for you. Fully inform your loved ones of any conditions you have and their symptoms, so that they will recognize if your condition worsens.
You might not always be able to make decisions regarding your own medical care. To prepare for this possibility, it makes sense to choose a medical decision maker, or proxy. If you are unable to make decisions, this person can choose:
The most important factor in choosing a medical decision maker is how much trust you have in this person to respect your wishes and carry them out. Legally, it cannot be your doctor or anyone who works at your hospital or clinic. You should look for a friend or family member who:
Long-term medical care is difficult in an ideal situation, so it bears repeating: choose a medical proxy you trust, and make sure you establish them as your legal medical proxy. Every state has different forms that you can use to do so, and the PREPARE program from Prepare for Your Care has them available at their website.