What Are Advance Directives?
An advance directive declares your healthcare choices and/or names someone else to make those choices for you. It can be simple or complex. It may have minimal direction about care or be very specific, detailing your wishes regarding all types of life-sustaining treatments. An advance directive takes effect only if you become unable to make your own decisions. It may be changed or canceled at any time. You do not need a lawyer to complete an advance directive, though you may wish to consult one.
Who Can Benefit?
Anyone over the age of 18 can benefit from an advance directive. You don't have to be old to get sick or injured.
A living will is a written or oral statement of the kind of medical care you want or do not want in the event that you can no longer make your own medical decisions. It is called a living will because it takes effect while you are still living. You may wish to speak to your healthcare provider or attorney to be certain you have completed the living will in a way that your wishes will be understood.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
A durable power of attorney for healthcare names another person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. You can include instructions about treatment you want or do not want, similar to a living will. Your representative must be someone you trust to make serious decisions. The person must be at least 18 years old, clearly understand your wishes, and be willing to accept the responsibility of making medical decisions for you.
Providers Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
POLST is a Montana program that specifies the wishes of an individual regarding life-sustaining treatment. It is intended for any individual with an advanced life-limiting illness. The POLST form is portable from one care setting to another. In a healthcare facility, the form is a part of the patient's medical record. In a noninstitutionalized setting such as a home, the form should be located in a prominent location. It will be recognized by emergency personnel as orders to be followed. If you have a signed POLST form, it is recommended that you also have an advance directive, though it is not required. You can get a POLST form from your physician or other healthcare provider.
NOTE: If you previously had a Comfort One, it will still be honored by emergency personnel, but you should have it updated by a physician.
Learn more about advance directives by reading Advance directives address 'what ifs' about your health.