Changes in our health can sometimes make it difficult to make decisions on our own, meaning someone should be identified to make them for us.
This surrogate (the person you choose to make those decisions) should try to honor any wishes you expressed while you were still capable of doing so — and advance directives (or advance care plans) are the types of legal documents that allow you to spell out your healthcare choices ahead of time.
HealthinAging.org provided this information about how to make the right decision for you or a loved one.
Advance Directives 101
The ideal advance directive includes a durable power of attorney and a living will. Each state has its own paperwork, so be sure to use the one that applies to your situation. Concerned about how to start a conversation about medical decision making? Visit PrepareForYourCare.org for an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A durable power of attorney for health care (DPAHC) identifies the person you’re choosing as a surrogate to make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to make them yourself. Choose a relative or someone you trust to make such decisions, and be sure to talk to them before preparing your DPHAC to ensure they are willing to serve in this role.
A living will tells your surrogate and healthcare professionals what kind of medical treatment you would and wouldn’t want. A living will allows you to direct healthcare providers to withhold or withdraw treatments that may keep you alive if you become terminally ill, are no longer able to make decisions, and prefer not to pursue these types of treatment options. You can also specify in your living will if you want palliative care (care designed to keep you as comfortable as possible).
Tips for Preparing Your Advance Directive
These quick tips will help you prepare your advance directives.
• Talk to your relatives, friends, and healthcare providers. Explain your wishes so that others are prepared. If no one is able or available to act as a surrogate, it may be that your healthcare provider is the next best choice.
• Make copies of your advance directives. Keep a copy for yourself, and disseminate others to your surrogate, family members, healthcare providers, and local hospital. You may want to put a note in your wallet explaining that you have an advance directive and where it can be found.
• Review and revise as needed. You may change your mind over time about what kind of care you do and do not want. If you complete a new advance directive, it replaces the old one (be sure to give copies to everyone who had a previous version). An advance directive stays in effect until you change it.