Who should consider having an advanced directive?

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. You should only assign someone a power of attorney to make your medical decisions if they have someone you trust to carry out your wishes. For example, your husband or daughter may find it painful to adhere to your preference not to have a breathing tube inserted.

Most people think that this document is only for those who are very sick or very old. It is absolutely essential for anyone who is 18 years of age or older. Documents such as advance directives can help ensure that your loved ones and your healthcare team follow your wishes. You can also prepare documents to express your wishes on a single medical topic or something that is not yet covered in your advance directive.

Advance directives are important tools that anyone can have, because even the healthiest person could have a sudden accident and not be able to speak for themselves. A terminal condition is an incurable and irreversible medical condition in an advanced state caused by an injury, illness or physical illness that, in the opinion of the attending physician, with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, will result in death regardless of the continued application of life-sustaining treatment. Each state has its own advance directive form, which gives you questions to answer and specific things you can choose to accept or decline, but you can always add additional information about your wishes if the form doesn't include everything you're worried about. Advance directives also support continuity of care for patients as they transition between care settings, doctors, or healthcare teams.

An advance directive never takes precedence over the contemporary wishes of a patient who has the capacity to make decisions. In some states, advance care planning includes a document called medical orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST). An advance directive has several sections, which allow you to give specific health care instructions or designate others to make decisions if necessary. You are at risk unless you have taken the simple but necessary step of signing an advance directive that will protect you if you are ever unable to make your own healthcare decisions.

There are state-specific forms for advance directives like these; you don't need an attorney to prepare them. Also, when you're ready to fill out your advance directives, your health care team may be able to help. If that's your situation, consider preparing an advance directive using forms for each state and also keep a copy at each location. A POLST also indicates what advance directives you have created and who acts as your health care agent.

Emergency personnel, such as paramedics and emergency medical technicians (emergency medical technicians) cannot use advance directives, but they can use a POLST form. There are two main elements in an advance directive: a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care.

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