Advance Medical Directives - Preparing

What motivated you to prepare an advance medical directive (living will, power of attorney, and health care proxy)?

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How can one obtain and prepare living will and advance medical directive forms?

Preparing documents for a living will and advance directive can be done at any time during an adult person's lifetime. As one's preference can naturally change during one's life, these documents can also be amended and modified to reflect the changes.

Obtaining medical advance directive documents is simple. Medical offices, hospitals, social workers, attorneys, and even post offices may carry these documents. In fact, hospitals receiving medical and Medicaid payments are required to offer their patients these documents.

A good place to begin this process is an open discussion with a primary-care doctor or other treating physicians. As stated earlier, living wills and advance directives can be very broad or quite specific. Meanings, implications, risks, and benefits of components of an advance directive deserve clear understanding before they are signed in a legally binding document that may be relied upon for end-of-life decisions.

Selecting a person as a medical power of attorney is also an important decision. The surrogate decision maker does not necessarily need to be a family member or a relative. In truth, any person in whom an individual trusts to carry out their wishes on their behalf and in good faith, can be designated as a health-care proxy.

Additionally, because these are legal documents of various forms, appropriate and accurate drafting with the help of an attorney is advised. Furthermore, as regulations may vary from state to state, your attorney can also guide you through how to do a living will and an advance directive.

Although it is highly encouraged, it is often difficult to address issues pertaining to terminal illnesses, end-of-life care, and death with loved ones and caregivers. Despite having proper documentation, it is important for family members and caregivers to have some general knowledge about a patient's preferences. More importantly, family members or anyone close to the individual must know where these documents are located and be able to provide them or refer to them in cases of emergency. It is also extremely beneficial to have extra copies of these documents and to bring them with the patient to the hospital, emergency room, or even doctors' offices.

Previous contributing author: Maude Bancroft Hecht, RN

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