An advance directive, also known as a living will or medical directive, is a legal document that outlines your wishes about health care if you are unable to speak or make decisions for yourself. Additionally, it allows you to further specify your requests and preferences in the event of incapacitation or death. Fun stuff, right? The reality is that life-changing events can happen quickly and unexpectedly.
As hard it may be to take the step to complete an advance directive, how much harder would it be for your loved ones to do it for you? You may think that your family knows what you would want in an unfortunate situation, but why make it harder for them? In a time of great stress, they may be struggling to recall conversations and comments you made in the past about what you might have wanted. Do this for them, not you.
Where Do I Start?
First, download the advance directive information and form for your state. State laws and terminology may vary, but the intention is the same. It will ask you for key information such as:
- Who you designate to be your health care agent to make medical decisions if you can’t
- What measures (if any) you want taken to prolong your life
- What type of care you do or do not want to receive
- Whether you wish to be an organ or tissue donor
- Your religious affiliation and funeral or service directions
By law, hospitals also provide and maintain information about advance directives as well.
How Does it Work?
Once you have documented your wishes, your form may need to be notarized before signing (again, refer to information for your particular state). Then, the most important thing is communication! Make sure to provide a copy to your doctor, and confirm that it has been added to your medical records. Your family and the person you named as your health care agent should also have a copy, or know exactly where to find the document. Some states also offer a nationwide registry where your advance directive can be quickly available to medical personnel if needed. Finally, make sure and keep it updated if you have any life changes.
Of course, no one likes to think about death, illness or injury. But by completing your advance directive, you can have peace of mind knowing that you’ve helped lessen a burden on your loved ones, and your wishes are known.