Thinking about serious medical issues and end-of-life care is not something that most people want to do. However, if you have expectations for how you’d like to be cared for when you’re unable to make your own decisions, you may want to complete an advance directive. Advance directives are legal documents that express your wishes for end-of-life medical care. Advance directives only come into effect when you’re unable to make your own decisions. It will not affect your care when you can make your own decisions. Advance directives include:
- Living Will: A living will instructs your caregivers, loved ones and medical providers how to proceed with medical care if you are unable to make decisions due to a medical condition.
- Medical Power of Attorney: A medical power of attorney is a person you trust to make decisions for you based on your living will, should you be unable to make your own decisions.
Completing your Advance Directive: Things to consider
- Communicate with family and friends as you prepare to complete the form. Sometimes talking through your decisions with another person can help you truly distinguish the correct decisions for you.
- Make sure you are using your state’s most up-to-date form. Unsure of where to find it? Visit your state’s website or check the state bar association website.
- Once you have the correct form, read each section carefully to make sure that you respond to the questions accurately.
- Be specific in your responses to ensure that there is no doubt of your desires.
- Some states feel that your signature is sufficient, while others require you to sign the papers in front of witnesses or a notary.
- Check to see if your state has a filing system for your completed forms; in some cases it may be mandated.
- Be sure to date all of the necessary documents so there is no doubt of the timeliness.
- Provide copies of your advance directive to your medical power of attorney and healthcare providers.
- Remember, you can change your mind! What you want at this moment may not be what you want in a few months, years, etc. There are many things that may cause you to change your mind such as a serious diagnosis, witnessing the experience of someone else, the birth of a child, a change in values, and more. You can even change your medical power of attorney (MPOA) should a situation arise that warrants you to do so, or if you simply decide upon another person.
- If you opt to change, follow the same steps you took to file your advance directive the first time. Be sure to destroy all copies of your previous advance directive and communicate your new decisions with your MPOA and healthcare providers.
- Click here for more information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
For Health Advocate members
If you are a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life program, our services offer programs to assist you with making important decisions. We can connect you with legal professionals who can advise you and help you get started with your advance directive.