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Advance Directives for Mental People

by Baychester

I was put in a state hospital for 2 years in the sixties and then several times after that for long periods of time. I was terrified during those days. I didn't understand anything that was going on. I went from picking up a few credits before graduate school to being treated like a child. I had no control over anything that happened to me. My family had no idea what to do and no power to help me. I was given medicine that would drive me up a wall. I couldnt understand the rules, why I couldn't make a phone call, go outside, etc.

In those days we had no patient advocates, no rights, no choices, and no participation in our treatment. It was like being Alice in Wonderland.

I was quite happy recently to find a combination physical and mental health proxy listed on a site for New York State. it can be found on the US Living Will Registry site. From my reading , I understand that most states will accept an advance directive (health care proxy) written in another state. But it's best to make sure about your own state.

Health care proxies, living wills and advance directives all assign another person to make medical decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated and unable to do so yourself. It is VERY important to make your proxy a person or persons you trust to carry out your wishes or to do for you what they think you would want done. You can say that the person you designate as your proxy can make any and all decisions except to the extent you say otherwise. Or you can specify which decisions can be made.

These forms can be quite specific . What you put in them is your decision. For instance, you may say what medications you do not want and why, or you may say what hospital you would prefer to go to and which you would prefer not to go to and why. You can even specify what kinds of treatments work for you such as quiet time, reading, sports talking to a nurse, talking to someone else etc. I remember when I was in the hospital I had no input whatsoever. Everyone was treated according to what the people working there or doctor on call thought appropriate.

You should also include how you feel about shock treatment.

These health care proxies should be gone over with your health care providers and copies should be given to them as well as to your proxies and alternates. Proxies are witnessed by 2 people who aver you are of sound mind and acting of your own free will. It may be useful to have your psychiatrist make a statement that they agree you are of sound mind. I discussed my proxy with my therapist and asked her to do what she could to make sure my wishes were followed.

I understand there are different procedures for people who are already in hospitals and will check that out, perhaps in a future article.

Links to check out:

NMHA Advance Directive Information
Advance Directive for Mental Health Care: An Analysis of State Statutes by Robert D. Fleischner
US Living Will Registry (a comprehensive information site)
Partnership for Caring

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