Making end-of-life decisions about medical care can be difficult. An advance directive is a tool to help protect your medical wishes, instruct your physicians, and ease the stress on you and your family about making important decisions about your future.
NOTE: An advance directive is not a traditional will.
Types of Advance Directives
There are two types of advance directives:
- Living Will: (Completed by you) This document allows you to express your wishes about medical treatments offered to you if you’re seriously ill. It can also name a healthcare surrogate to make medical decisions. This living will only applies if a patient is terminally ill or permanently unconscious. Download Living Will.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: (Completed by attorney) This is a legal document is drafted by an attorney. It allows a designated party to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated, even if you’re not terminally ill or permanently unconscious. Download Durable Power of Attorney.
Top 5 Advance Directive Tips
- Choose a health care surrogate. Who understands his or her values and wishes for treatment because the surrogate will be making decisions for the patient if he or she can’t make them. The patient should be sure it is someone who will make the choices that he or she would make, even though they may not be the choices the surrogate would make in the same situation.
- Know what you want to say. Don’t complete an advance directive until you are certain about your instructions. Once your decisions are made, fill out your form as quickly as possible.
- Share your directive. Give completed copies of your directive to family members and healthcare providers. Your doctors will place your document in your medical records files. Your family members will can keep your directive in a safe place and present them when needed.
- Carry a directive card. If possible, keep a card in your wallet stating you have advance medical directives and where to find them.
- Review your directive regularly. Review your directive every year to ensure it’s still in line with your wishes.
Is a lawyer necessary to complete an advance directive?
No, but you may want to see a lawyer if:
- You’ve lived in more than one state during the course of the year
- You find the directive form hard to understand
- Your directive form doesn’t allow you to share your health care preferences
- You have concerns that the advance directive form does not address
Changing Your Directive
You can change or cancel your advance directive at any time. Just be sure to notify family members, doctors, and caregivers about any revisions and distribute updated copies of your form.