Question: When should decisions about advanced directives and medical power of attorney be made in the course of heart failure?
Answer: Advanced directives and medical power of attorney are legal documents that help physicians and family and loved ones make decisions if you're incapacitated to make decisions about your care. These are documents that every adult should have whether you have heart failure or not. And these documents should be filled out at the earliest opportunity when you develop an illness that may potentially lead to death.
However, any of us can cross the street tomorrow and be hit by a bus and having those documents in place is very important for helping family and friends and loved ones make appropriate decisions about care. There have been, as all of you know, several high profile legal cases in which such documents were not available or not adequate to help families make decisions, and terrible legal quagmires can result.
Every state has different laws about medical power of attorney and advanced directives. And so, it's important to fill these documents out with a knowledgeable person, either a lawyer or social worker or some other professional who's filled out many of these and knows the legal ramifications of the laws in your state so they are filled out adequately to guide the caregivers should you become unable to make your medical decisions. And when you're doing these documents, encourage all adults in your family to make their documents as well so that everyone's healthcare is taken care of in the eventuality of a condition that doesn't allow someone to make decisions.