The first thing you do when you take a road trip to an unfamiliar destination is chart your course carefully. Why should end-of-life planning be any different?
Completing an advance directive is an important step toward having your end-of-life wishes honored if you become unable to voice your wishes. Yet fewer than one-third of Americans have the necessary “map” available.
Do you have a map? If not, you'll want to download and print the documents below and fill them out.
- A Living Will: This is a document you can fill out yourself. It allows you to express your wishes regarding particular kinds of medical treatments that you may be offered when seriously ill. You can also name a health care surrogate to make medical decisions for you. This living will only applies if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: This is a legal document drawn up by an attorney that names someone as your "durable power of attorney for healthcare." This written health care power of attorney allows the person you name to make medical decisions for you in the event you are ever incapacitated, even though you are not terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
- Choose a “health care surrogate” who understands your values and wishes for treatment because he/she will be making your decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself. Be sure it is someone who will make the choices that you would make, even though they may not be the choices he/she would make in the same situation.
- Don’t complete an advance directive form until you know exactly what you want it to say. Once those decisions are made, fill it out as quickly as possible so that it is available for whenever it is needed.
- Give completed copies to your health care provider to be placed in your medical record file and to those closest to you so they can help carry out your wishes.
- If necessary keep a card in your wallet stating that you have advance directives and where to find them.
No, but you may want to see a lawyer if:
- You live in more than one state during the course of the year;
- You don’t fully understand the standard advance directive form;
- You find that the form does not allow you to express your actual health care preferences; or if
- You have concerns that the advance directive form does not address.