Planning for the future is important. However, more people plan for financial reasons than for medical ones.
An advance healthcare directive gives directions regarding health and medical care if you are in a state in which you are unable to make these decisions.
Purpose of the advance directive
According to The New York State Office of the Attorney General, an advance healthcare directive comes into play in a number of situations. It may be a serious accident that leaves you in a coma, it may be Alzheimer’s disease that affects your mental state or it may simply be when are at the end of life and are unable to make medical decisions.
An advance directive outlines healthcare decisions, and it is a legal document. The types include a do not resuscitate order, a living will and a healthcare proxy. You may fill out one of the documents or all of them. If you choose no resuscitation, a doctor writes up the DNR order, which gives instructions not to provide necessary lifesaving procedures. A living will outlines healthcare wishes and end-of-life treatment. A proxy names an agent, which is the person who will follow your healthcare instructions and make other necessary decisions.
What to include in a healthcare directive
Although the healthcare proxy can make the decisions for care, it helps to include a living will to help guide the decision-making process. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization recommends that you outline non-negotiable treatments (or lack of), but not to be so restrictive that the healthcare agent cannot be flexible with unforeseeable situations.
You should discuss your wishes, beliefs and values with the agent so he or she can act in your best interests. You can also include information about organ donation, funeral plans and pain relief requests.
Keep in mind that your living will only takes affect when your doctor states in writing that you are unable to make decisions on your own.