Imagine if you were too sick or injured to express your health care wishes. Who would you want to make those decisions and guide your care? An Advance Directive is a legal document that allows you to express your end-of-life health care wishes ahead of time.
Everyone over the age of 18 should have an advance directive on file. People often think they are too healthy to have an advance directive. The reality is that none of us know the future, and at any moment, something could happen to us where we become incapable of making decisions for ourselves.
An advance directive has two purposes. The most important purpose is to designate a person or persons whom you trust and would be willing to represent your wishes in the event you need someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. This person(s) is called your health care power of attorney (POA).
The second purpose is to express your thoughts relating to medical care intended to prolong life. You can choose to accept or refuse medical care commonly related to dialysis, resuscitation, breathing machines and tube feedings. It also is possible to express your wishes related to organ and tissue donation. Completing this part of the form may be difficult, because it requires you to reflect on your values and beliefs on end-of-life treatment. Some people find it difficult to think about the end of their lives.
When you complete your advance directive, it must be made legal by having it signed by two witnesses who know you and watch you sign the form. The witnesses cannot be the person named on the form as your power of attorney and cannot be your health care provider or relative. After it is legal, you should give a copy to your health care provider, power of attorney and family.
This document is an important part of your medical record. Some of the choices you may put in your directive are:
- The person you want to be your health agent and make decisions about your health care for you
- Your goals, values and preferences about health care
- The types of medical treatment you want or don’t want
- Where you would like to receive care
- Instructions about treatments, such as artificial nutrition and hydration, CPR and dialysis
- Donation of organs, tissues and eyes
- Funeral arrangements
- Review and complete the Advance Health Care Planning: Making Your Wishes Known booklet. If you would like a paper copy of this booklet sent to you, please call 715-838-3139.
- Complete an Advance Directive form, and sign it in front of two witnesses. If you would like a paper copy of this form sent to you, please call 715-838-3139.
- Give a copy to your health care provider, power of attorney and family.