Final Health Care Choices
Most people do not know they can (and should) plan for their health care at the end of life. Families need to understand their options for final health care and discuss their individual thoughts and beliefs about those options with each other. You need to make sure your loved ones know and respect your decisions and would feel comfortable making those same choices for you if you could not communicate for yourself. But it can be very difficult to begin these discussions. Let the staff at the United Hospice Foundation show you how to get started and familiarize you with Advance Directives.
Are documents that state your wishes about the types of medical treatment you want, or don't want, if you are unable to communicate these instructions yourself. There are two types of advance directives: the Living Will and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
For printable advanced directives please click on your state:
Health Care Power of Attorney
Health Care Power of Attorney
is the first living will that talks about your personal, emotional and spiritual needs as well as your medical wishes. It lets you choose the person you want to make health care decisions for you if you are not able to make them for yourself. Five Wishes lets you say exactly how you wish to be treated if you get seriously ill. It was written with the help of The American Bar Association's Commission on the Legal Problems of the Elderly, and the nation's leading experts in end-of-life care. It's also easy to use. All you have to do is check a box, circle a direction, or write a few sentences. This program was developed by Aging with Dignity, P.O. Box 1661, Tallahassee, FL. 32302-1661 and can be ordered by calling 1-888-5-Wishes or visit them online www.agingwithdignity.org . This directive is accepted as a legal document in 42 states and is a helpful tool in all 50 states.
A Living Will contains written instructions explaining the type of health care treatment you prefer to receive if you cannot communicate for yourself. These instructions will be followed in only three situations: when you have a terminal illness and death is imminent; when you are in a coma (not necessarily brain damaged) with no reasonable expectation of regaining consciousness; or if you are in a persistent vegetative state (there is brain damage) with no reasonable expectation of regaining cognitive function. A Living Will should not be confused with the legal documents you create which distribute your assets upon death. You do not need legal counsel to prepare a Living Will.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to identify a specific person who will act as your personal agent if you cannot communicate for yourself. Your agent will make sure your health care providers are informed of the type of care you wish to receive by referring to your Living Will and to past personal conversations the two of you shared. Your personal agent can speak for you in any health care situation when you are unable to communicate for yourself. For instance; if you were temporarily unconscious due to an illness or accident, declared mentally incompetent by the court, under anesthesia, or in a variety of other scenarios. You do not need legal counsel to prepare a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
It is extremely important to speak with your loved ones about your final health care choices. If your family does not understand your thoughts and beliefs behind your decisions, they may not follow your instructions.
You can get advance directive documents on this page (see above), or help starting your family discussion, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (800) 956-5354.
Advance Directives/End-of-Life Planning Links
American Bar Association - Consumer Toolkit for Healthcare Advance Planning
Bill Moyers on Dying – On Our Own Terms