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The older a person becomes, the greater the chances of he or she requiring long term medical care during the course of his or her lifetime. By law, patients are not obligated to accept medical treatment of any kind without giving informed consent to the providers of that treatment. This means that doctors cannot legally provide you with home care or hospital care treatments for an ailment without your express permission.

Informed consent involves two requirements:

  1. The patient being fully informed about the treatment they are to receive
  2. The patient giving his or her permission for said treatment

The Importance of Informed Consent For Seniors

When it comes to senior care health matters, your wishes, as the patient, often dictate the type of treatment you receive. Obviously, you cannot make wise decisions concerning treatment unless you have a clear understanding of your medical condition and the possible treatments at hand. It is your doctor’s responsibility to provide you with this information in detail before enacting any kind of procedure towards your care.

Some factors to consider concerning treatments include:

  • the type of treatment and what it entails
  • how long it will last
  • possible negative side effects
  • alternatives to the procedure

After your doctor has explained all this to you, you should be in a better position to make a knowledgeable decision either for or against said treatment.

Health Care Isn’t Always a Smooth Process

Elderly healthcare provides its share of challenges and ethical issues, especially along the line of informed consent. Sometimes a healthcare provider will withhold information from their patients or mislead them into receiving the treatments they consider best for their care.

Other times, patients do not have the mental capacity to make treatment decisions on their own. For example, patients suffering from dementia are in no state to give consent on medical care due to their unclear mental state. It is then necessary to receive permission for treatment from a family member or legal guardian. In the event of life or death situations, doctors may proceed with treatment without consent.

Consider Advance Care Planning

As a senior citizen, you should be fully aware of the implications of informed consent in relation to your health. This knowledge can help you avoid ethical issues concerning your health care in the future.

Programs such as Advance Care Planning allow you to make decisions in the present that will affect your healthcare for the future. These decisions take into account your personal choices, religious beliefs, ethical beliefs, etc. By planning ahead, you have more control over personal healthcare matters which may affect you later in life when you are no longer capable of making these decisions on your own.

If the future of your health care is important to you, it is essential that you plan in advance for unexpected situations that may arise. You can share your ethical values and preferences on home care or senior care issues with your doctor and family members who may one day be responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf. These healthcare preferences should also be recorded in a legal document or medical power of attorney, leaving no room for misunderstandings about your wishes for medical treatment when the time comes.

Informed Consent Helps to Address Future Ethical Issues

It is not unusual for ethical conflicts to arise in the course of medical treatment for elderly patients. Sometimes patients see their personal situations differently than doctors or even family members. These differences may result in your choosing an alternative course of action than what your family or doctor may prescribe.

You may, for example, opt for home care treatment when your physician is suggesting hospitalization. By discussing these possibilities with your family and doctor, you can come up with viable solutions for your treatment.

As long as you have the capability to make healthcare decisions, according to the process of informed consent, the final decision on personal healthcare matters rests with you. Before rejecting any treatment your doctor suggests, however, it would be wise to get a second opinion from another physician you trust or a specialist for clarity on the matter.