// Advance Directives

In the early stages of the illness, the individual is in a position to make and plan for future health care needs. However, as the illness progresses, this decision making ability declines significantly. It is a time to discuss treatment options and planning. Decisions on medical care, life prolonging measures, and advance directives. Topics to discuss:

  • What type of medical care would you want if you were too ill or unable to express your wishes?
  • Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to convey your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time.
  • They provide a way for you to communicate your wishes to family, friends and health care professionals, and to avoid confusion later on.

Types of Advance Directives

  • Health care proxy (medical)
  • Living wills (documentation)
  • Durable power of attorney (financial)

Health Care Proxy

A health care proxy is an agent (a person) appointed by you to make medical decisions in the event you are unable to do so. The health care agent is called upon only when you do not have the capacity to make medical decisions. The proxy is used in conjunction with a living will that spells out the person’s wishes regarding the extent of life-sustaining treatment desired. Health care proxy laws vary from state to state.

Living Wills

A living will is a set of instructions documenting your wishes about medical care intended to sustain life. It is needed if you become terminally ill, incapacitated, or unable to communicate or make decisions. There are many types of life-sustaining care that should be taken into consideration when drafting a living will, including:

  • Life support
  • cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • mechanical ventilation
  • artificial nutrition and hydration (tube feeding)
  • kidney dialysis
  • surgical procedures
  • diagnostic studies
  • intravenous lines
  • antibiotics
  • blood transfusions
  • chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • organ or tissue donation

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

A power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to handle your financial affairs while you’re unavailable or lack the capacity to do so. A durable power of attorney for finances is a separate legal document from the durable power of attorney for health care or health care proxy. You may choose the same person or someone different from your health care proxy to act as your legal agent in financial matters.