Advance Directives are a way to “have your say” about the type of care you receive (or don’t receive) in the event you suffer a catastrophic medical event, such as a stroke or an accident that leaves you unable to communicate your wishes. Every adult should plan ahead by completing an Advance Directive that specifies his or her personal preferences in regard to acceptable and unacceptable medical treatments. There are two types of Advance Directives:
A Living Will states your preferences regarding the type of medical care you want to receive (or don’t want to receive) if you are incapacitated and cannot communicate. You specify the treatment you want to receive or not receive in a variety of scenarios.
Also known as a durable power of attorney for health care or a health care proxy, a Medical Power of Attorney names another person, such as your spouse, daughter or son, to make medical decisions for you if you are no longer able to make medical decisions for yourself, or you are unable to communicate your preferences.
Note that a Medical Power of Attorney is not the same as a Power of Attorney, which gives another person the authority to act on your behalf on matters you specify, such as handling your financial affairs. Each state regulates Advance Directives differently. As a result, you may wish to involve an attorney in the preparation of your Advance Directive. You can modify, update or cancel an Advance Directive at any time, in accordance with state law. If you spend a good deal of time in several states, you may want to have an Advance Directive for each state.
Make sure that the person you name to act for you – your health care proxy – has current copies of your Advance Directive. Give a copy of your Advance Directive to your physician and, if appropriate, your long-term care facility.
Although you may find the mythical genie in a lamp and be granted three wishes, Northeast Florida Community Hospice makes it even easier to be sure you are granted at least five wishes. Their Five Wishes® guidebook makes it very easy to specify up to five important advance directives for your health care decisions and communicating them to your loved ones while you still can. Presented in an easy reading fill-in-the-blank format, the guide is free of charge. You can get one (or several) by contacting Northeast Florida Community Hospice at 904-407-6500 or visit their website at communityhospice.com. Fill it out and give a copy to the important people in your life who may have to make medical decisions for you someday.
Although the Five Wishes® guide is a good start, an even better approach may be to have a chat with your financial planner and your attorney. Make sure all the important decisions regarding your personal care and the management of your estate are properly addressed, in addition to your five wishes.