What You Need to Know About Advance Directives
Advance Medical Directives are written instructions regarding your medical care preferences. If you become unable to make or articulate your own decisions, advance directives tell family and caregivers how to proceed with your health care and who is designated to make decisions on your behalf (your health care agent). Once complete, advance directives must be signed, dated and witnessed.
Types of Advance Directives
There are three types of advance medical directives, each with its own unique function:
- A living will stipulates the life-prolonging medical care you want to receive if you become terminally ill, permanently unconscious or otherwise unable to make your own decisions.
- A durable power of attorney for health care specifies your health care agent – the person you’ve designated to make your medical choices if you are unable to do so at any time, not just at the end of life.
- A Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) order instructs health care professionals not to administer CPR or advanced cardiac life support if your heart or breathing stops. Only treatments involving intubation or CPR are affected by the directives of a DNR.
Preparing Your Advance Directives
Things to think about when preparing your advance directives:
- Understand life-saving measures like resuscitation, medical ventilation, nutrition and hydration assistance and dialysis. Decide which treatment(s) you would want, if any.
- Your advance directive can specify your wishes with regard to organ, eye and tissue and body donation.
- Each state sets its own laws for advance directives. State-specific forms are available on caringinfo.org.
- Give copies of your completed advance directives to your physician, health care agent and family.
- Review your advance directives periodically. You may change your advance directives at any time.
- Unexpected end-of-life situations can occur at any age, so it’s important for anyone over 18 to have advance directives in place.