An advance directive serves as the written version of the type of medical care you want in the event something happens to you and you are unable to convey your desires. It will express your wishes to your family and your doctor if you have a serious injury or illness that prevents from saying what you want.
An advance directive will not be used if you can still make your own decisions. You can refuse or stop treatment at any time.
There are two types of advance directives:
- Living will – This tells your family and doctor the treatment you want as you near the end of your life and/or if you can no longer speak for yourself. This is also called a treatment directive.
- Medical power of attorney – This lets you name a person to make treatment decisions for you when you can't speak for yourself. This person is called a health care agent or health care proxy.
You can get forms for either a living will or medical power of attorney in a doctor’s office, hospital, law office, state or local office for the aging, senior center, nursing home, or online.
Once you fill out the forms, make sure they are witnessed as your state requires, and provide copies to your family and doctors.
You can change or cancel an advance directive at any time.
What to consider
Some treatment options you may want to consider as you are filling out your advance directive include:
- Receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops.
- Be on a machine that pumps air into your lungs through a tube if you can’t breathe on your own.
- Be on a machine that cleans your blood if your kidneys stop working.
- Be fed or get fluids through a tube if you can’t eat or drink.
- Take medicines to treat serious infections.
These are tough choices to make, but you don’t have to make them alone. Take your time. Share your questions or concerns about what to include in your advance directive with your doctor or nurse, your lawyer, your family, or a friend.