Advance directives – a living will or health care power of attorney – allow you to give instructions about your future medical care should you be unable to do so yourself when the time comes.
By making your wishes clear, advance directives can help spare your family the burden of trying to guess what medical care you would want in a particular situation.
Advance directives, which usually go into effect only if you are near death and unable to communicate, let you document the forms of medical treatment acceptable to you (within the bounds of State law). You may, for example, specify that you do not wish to be kept on a respirator, but you would like tube feeding, hydration or procedures that will keep you as comfortable as possible.
A health care power of attorney lets you appoint a trusted individual (sometimes called your “proxy” or “agent”) to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated, even if you are not terminally ill or near death. Your health care agent is your advocate and is authorized to speak for you in health care matters when you cannot. Therefore, it is vitally important that the person you choose understands your wishes regarding life support and medication.
Filing Your Advance Directives
State laws vary regarding advance directives, so it is best to complete the forms specific to your state or states of residence. Forms are available. If you would like more information or would like to fill out an advance directive, call the Quality and Integrated Care department at Fort HealthCare at 920-568-5279 or 1-800-421-4677, ext. 5279.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization similarly urges everyone, regardless of their age, to discuss their end-of-life wishes with family members and put them in writing with advance directives. NHPCO has free brochures and state-specific advance directives to provide you with information and resources for advance care planning.