What is the difference between an advanced directive and living will?

An advance directive is a set of instructions that describe your wishes for health care. It is also used when serious medical situations occur and you are unable to communicate your wishes. However, unlike the living will, an advance directive is not limited to terminal illness. It may also include medical events such as dementia, stroke, or coma.

Turns out the answer is “not quite. Both share the same ultimate goal, which is to respond to your wishes regarding your future medical care. However, a living will is a type of advance directive, a term used to describe a broader category. Advance directives are any legal document that addresses health care in any form or form.

This includes a living will, a medical POA (or health care power of attorney), and even a mental health directive. Going through the process of filing your advance directives, including your living will, will force you to ask yourself these questions that you may have never thought of before. Advance care planning involves learning about the types of decisions to make, considering those decisions ahead of time, and then informing others about your preferences, both your family and your health care providers. Advance directives guide options for doctors and caregivers if you have a terminal illness, a serious injury, are in a coma, in the late stages of dementia or near the end of life.

In some states, this directive may also be referred to as a permanent power of attorney for health care or power of attorney for health care. In some states, advance care planning includes a document called medical orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST). There are many different types of advance directives, including, but not limited to, a living will, a medical power of attorney, and a no-resuscitation order (DNR). An advance directive is a legal document that describes your wishes for medical care in case you become incapacitated due to injury, terminal illness, or permanent vegetative state, and you can no longer make such decisions on your behalf.

However, an advance directive is not always a living will, because it is a broader category that includes other documents. All states allow certain types of advance directives, so check your state's laws to make sure you know what's available. These preferences are often included in an advance directive, a legal document that comes into effect only if you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. You may want to make a card to carry in your wallet stating that you have an advance directive and where it is kept.

Review your advance care planning decisions from time to time, such as every 10 years, if not more often. No one likes to talk about your mortality, but advance directives and living wills can help ensure that your wishes are met if a health emergency arises. The board comes into play in any temporary or permanent scenario where you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes.

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