What is a Psychiatric Advance Directive?

Five percent of all Americans have a serious, chronic mental disability. Studies show that half of all Americans will be affected by some sort of mental illness at some point in their lives. This can be anything from Asperger’s to ADHD or depression. As people get older, there is a higher potential that they will acquire dementia or a mental disorder like Alzheimer’s. While statistics show that millions of Americans will be affected by a mental illness at some point, not many prepare for that possibility. In fact, few patients think to execute an advance medical directive for psychiatric care which can help them to cover medical costs if they become mentally incompetent later on in life.

Sometimes, mental illnesses can be reversed. For example, hyponatremia is a severe and potentially fatal metabolic imbalance that can cause hallucinations. People who suffer from these dangerous hallucinations can often become violent or suicidal. Thankfully, with an intravenous saline treatment and potassium pills, a person with hyponatremia can expect to make a full recovery. Other illnesses like depression and anxiety can be quickly banished with the right prescription. Some illnesses are irreversible, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Yet whether you have and irreversible and serious illness or a minor and fixable one, the fact is that you may still be able to live on your own and get a job.

While you may still be independent, you may worry that your mental condition is degenerative. Maybe you don’t trust yourself to make significant decisions about medical care or other choices. That is why the government allows men and women to create Psychiatric Advance Directives. These directives allow a person to appoint a surrogate to act on his or her behalf and authorize, limit, or decline psychiatric care when the mentally unstable individual is no longer able to do so. Psychiatric advance directives are like medical powers of attorney or living wills in the fact that they represent extension of the legal right of competent individuals to autonomy and self-determination in healthcare choices. They can be enforced by the state so that your surrogate has the sole right to determine the psychiatric care decisions that are best for your wellbeing.

According to Estate Planning, PADs are allowed in all states and under federal law, and free-standing PADs are specifically authorized in 25 state statutes. 7 states allow PAD provisions in the Veterans Administration healthcare system. In order to draft a Psychiatric Advance Directive for the future, you will want to meet up with an estate planning attorney. Like a will, this document is a significant document that you will want professional help creating, especially if you have a medical condition. An willing probate attorney can probably help to patiently explain the implications of a PAD to you can help you to create your own with tact and creativity. By thinking through your condition and the potential treatments you may face, you can outline the treatments you would prefer in the document.

It is important to note that in some cases a PAD can be over-ridden by an involuntary commitment order and a designated surrogate may be required to act in the patient’s best interest instead of going with the patient’s best wishes. Whenever you create a PAD, the choice of a surrogate is essential. You will want to choose someone that you can trust, and rely on even if you are in a weakened state. You will want to choose someone who is familiar with your condition so that you can trust that he or she will make informed decisions. Contact a probate attorney today if you want more information on this arrangement.