Advance Medical Directives are written wishes about your future medical care. People usually just call them Advance Directives. Below is an explanation of Advance Medical Directives.
There are 2 main types of directives:
- Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document that names a person who will make medical decisions for you if you cannot make decisions for yourself.
- Living Will: If you cannot make decisions yourself, a Living Will tells your doctors and caregivers what you want. It keeps them from having to guess about your wishes.
Who Should Have Advance Directives?
Everyone should have Advance Directives. Life-threatening health problems, accidents, and illnesses can happen to anyone at any time. Advance Directives help “direct” others to follow your wishes about the kinds of care you do and do not want when you cannot make decisions yourself.
How Do I Set up My Advance Directives?
Choose Who You Want to Make Medical Decisions for You If You Cannot
This person you choose is called your Health Care Agent. Pick someone who can best talk about your wishes when you cannot. You can name a first choice and a second choice. If your first choice is not able to make decisions for you, your second choice will be asked to.
Fill Out the My Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Form
This form lets you name the people you want to make medical decisions for you if you cannot.
Step 1: Pick Your Healthcare Agent
- Name who you want to be your first choice. Put down their contact info.
- If you want to add a second choice, name them and include their contact info.
- Sign and date the form.
Step 2: Finalize the Document
- Have two witnesses sign the form, or have the form notarized.
- You do not need to notarize the form if you have witnesses sign it.
Learn About End-of-life Treatments.
Think about the following treatments that might be used to keep you alive. Ask your doctor or any medical staff for more information. Decide if you would want these to be started at all, or if you want these to be stopped at a certain time if you are not getting better.
Important! If you can make your own decisions, your doctors will ask you what you want even if you have Advance Directives. Advance Directives are used only if your health problems become so bad that you cannot make your own decisions.
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR): Restarting your heart and lungs when they have stopped working. It can include pushing on your chest, using electrical shock to start your heart, and pumping air into your lungs.
- Breathing machines (Ventilators): Using a machine to help you breathe or to breathe for you if you cannot on your own. If you need one, you will often need a tube down your throat or a hole in your neck.
- Dialysis: Using a machine to clean your blood when your kidneys stop working.
- Artificial Nutrition: Giving you food or liquid by putting a tube in your nose or belly (feeding tube), or by giving it to you in a vein, when you cannot swallow.
Fill Out the My Living Will Form
This form tells your doctors and caregivers what you want if you cannot make the decision yourself.
Step 1: Check One Box for This Section
- Pick what option you want if you become so sick that you are likely to die soon.
- If you have specific wishes for this situation, then choose the last box and write in anything you do or do not want to happen.
Step 2: Check One Box for This Section
- Pick what option you want if you have a severe brain injury and your doctors do not think you will recover enough to be aware of and interact with those around you.
- Severe brain injuries are things like comas you will not recover from, being in what doctors call a persistent vegetative state, or being in the end-stages of dementia.
- If you have specific wishes for this situation, choose the last box and write in anything you do or do not want to happen.
Step 3: Write Down Any Other Wishes You Have
- Write down anything else you would like to tell your doctors, family, or caregivers.
- You are not limited here. You can write in types of treatments you want or do not want – or you can write in anything else you’d like people to know.
- Sign the document.
Step 4: Finalize the Document
- Have 2 witnesses sign the form, or have the form notarized.
- You do not need to notarize the form if you have witnesses sign the form.
Tell Your Loved Ones About Your Advance Directives
- Tell your Health Care Agent (your first choice and second choice, if you have one) that you have listed them on these forms. Give them a copy. Let them know why you do or do not want certain treatments.
- Talk about these forms and give copies to family and friends who might be called in an emergency. Also, give a copy to your doctors to be put in your medical records.