Advance directives are legally enforceable documents, initiated by you, that outline the type of care you want, especially at the end of life. Advance directives usually include two documents:
- A durable power of attorney for healthcare that names someone whom you trust to act on your behalf in the event that you can no longer make your own healthcare decisions.
- A living will that allows you to indicate the type of medical treatment that you would or would not want to receive if you cannot communicate your wishes and you are terminally ill.
Advance directives do the following:
- Document your wishes and preferences
- Relieve the decision-making burdens for your loved ones
- Allow you to choose someone you trust to make decisions about your care
- Prevent the delivery of unwanted medical and surgical treatments
- Give you peace of mind and a sense of control
Even if you aren't terminally ill or elderly, advance directives are useful to have in case of a sudden accident or illness. You can give copies of your advance directive to family members and your doctor, and you can bring a copy to the hospital if you become a patient.
Our chaplains, social workers and other staff are available to help you and your family work through the decisions necessary to complete advance directives. They can also assist you in creating the documents you need.
You can change your advance directives at any time. When you change your advance directives you must create a new form, distribute new copies and destroy all old copies. You should always discuss changes with your primary healthcare professional to make sure the new document replaces the old one in your medical file. You should also make sure the new document is added to medical charts in a hospital or nursing home.