Unexpected injuries or illness can happen anytime and prevent you from relaying your wishes about your desired medical care. Proactively creating a health care directive (living will) and identifying a durable power of attorney for your health care is important for anyone over the age of 18.
What is Advance Care Planning?
Thinking about end-of-life care and starting these conversations with your loved ones can be difficult, but taking the time to document now what kind of care and treatment you desire will help you, your family and health care team be prepared. As you consider the kind of care you want if you are unable to make your own decisions, below are a few tips to help you think through this process.
- Advance care planning should take into consideration what kind of care and treatment you want, your personal beliefs and values, and who you want to make decisions on your behalf. What are your wishes for treating pain and being comfortable? What type of life-sustaining measures would you like your medical team to take or not take? Where would like to spend your last months and/or days? What matters most to you at the end of life?
- Identify a durable power of attorney. This is a person who you select in advance that has the power to act and make decisions on your behalf. This decision-maker will utilize your health care directive to ensure your medical team is following your wishes when you are unable to do this yourself. This is often a spouse, child, relative or close friend.
- Both the health care directive and the durable power of attorney for your health care are legal documents. You do not need a lawyer to complete the forms, but you will need a notary and witnesses to sign once you have completed the documents.
- Once created, it is important to share your advance directive plan with your doctor and health care team. They will keep a copy of the form on file.
- You will also want to talk to your loved ones and family members who may be involved in your health care decisions so that they are aware of your power of attorney and your wishes for end-of-life care.
Documenting your wishes for health care helps ease the stress and anxiety for your family and loved ones, and they will find comfort in knowing that they are honoring your wishes.