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. 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. 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.
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. Advance directives explain how you want medical decisions made when you're too sick to speak for yourself. However, other states may not comply with an advance directive from another state which, in this case, would have to create an advance directive in the state in which you currently reside. The best thing to do after you create an advance directive, whether it's a living will or a health care power of attorney, is to make several photocopies of the entire document and keep the originals in a safe place.
If that's your situation, consider preparing an advance directive using forms for each state and also keep a copy at each location. While you don't need an attorney to fill out an advance directive, your advance directive becomes legally valid as soon as you sign it in front of the required witnesses. Advance directives are especially helpful in medical emergencies or near the end of a person's life. There are two main elements in an advance directive: a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care.
It's a great idea to talk to people close to you as you prepare your advance directive. 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. The purpose of any advance directive is to allow you to speak for yourself and to let others know what decisions you have made and what is important to you. For example, it's probably not unusual for someone to say in conversation, “I don't want to go to a nursing home,” but think carefully if you want a restriction like that on your advance directive.
Advance directives come into effect in most states after one or more doctors certify that (you cannot make a medical decision on your own), (you are in a condition specified in the state's living will law) and (you meet other state requirements, as applicable). To be valid, you must sign an advance directive in the presence of two witnesses, who will also sign. 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. Talking to your doctor about advance care planning decisions is free through Medicare during your annual wellness visit.