Is an advance directive a legal document?

What kind of medical care would you want to receive if you were too sick or hurt to express your wishes? Advance Directives are legal documents that allow you to explain your decisions about end-of-life care in advance. They give you a way to express your wishes to family, friends and health professionals and avoid confusion later on. Advance directives must be in writing. Each state has different forms and requirements for creating legal documents.

Depending on where you live, a witness may need to sign a form or be notarized. You can ask an attorney to help you with the process, but it's usually not necessary. You never know when you'll need advance directives, so it's a good idea to give copies to your doctors, agents, family, or friends. Web-based databases that store information about people's advance directives and that are accessible to health professionals are becoming increasingly available.

Advance directives are used to guide your health care team and loved ones when they need to make these decisions or to decide who will make decisions for you when you are unable to do so. A POLST also indicates what advance directives you have created and who acts as your health care agent. If you're not sure where to start with creating an advance directive or have other legal concerns about elder law, start by talking to an attorney. States may also call this a “health care statement,” medical directive, or “physician directive,” but the purpose of a living will is to instruct and guide your family and doctors about your end-of-life medical wishes.

You should state in your advance directive what you want done if your doctor suggests it's time to turn it off. If tube feeding is still needed for a long period of time, a feeding tube may be surgically inserted directly into the stomach. A power of attorney for medical or medical care is a type of advance directive in which you name a person to make decisions for you when you are unable to do so. If you store your advance directives in a registry and then make changes, you must replace the original with the updated version in the registry.

You may want to make a card to carry in your wallet stating that you have an advance directive and where it is kept. During this bedside surgery, the tube is inserted directly into the trachea through a hole in the neck. A living will is a legal document used to establish certain future health care decisions only when a person becomes unable to make decisions and choices on their own. If that's your situation, consider preparing an advance directive using forms for each state and also keep a copy at each location.

Talking to your doctor about advance care planning decisions is free through Medicare during your annual wellness visit. A permanent power of attorney for health care is a legal document that names a health care proxy, a person who makes medical decisions for you at times when you are unable to do so.

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