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What is an Advance Healthcare Directive?

An advance healthcare directive, also known as a medical directive or living will, is a legal document that provides instructions for your medical care if you are incapacitated. Whatever name you call it, a healthcare directive is a necessity for any adult, young or old. The document is a way to make medical decisions ahead of time so your loved ones and your doctors will know your wishes, should the need arise.

What to Include in a Healthcare Directive

There are a number of important items that you should include in a healthcare directive. Remember that the purpose of the directive is to provide information about your potential health care, so the information needs to be precise and easy to interpret. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Aging provides some useful information about planning your healthcare directive.

Some of the most important decisions often include when to allow the use of CPR to resuscitate, the use of a ventilator, artificial nutrition and hydration, and comfort care. These are just a small sample of the many areas that you can address in your healthcare directive. If you have a specific illness or condition, you may have some special requirements that you want to include in your directive. The most important thing to remember is that the document should provide others with how you wish to handle a variety of potential medical situations.

Choose a Health Care Proxy

A health care proxy or agent is a person you assign to be in charge of your medical decisions in the event that you are unable to do so on your own. The person you choose as your proxy will make decisions and act on your behalf. Often, the person is a close relative, a spouse, son or daughter, or a friend. The person you choose is someone whom you should be able to trust with your life. Make sure that you choose someone who lives nearby and is up for the task.

One of the essential things you should do is discuss your wishes with your health care proxy. Provide him or her with a copy of the healthcare directive once it is in place. You will have the opportunity to answer any questions so that your intentions and wishes are known. The proxy may need to make decisions that are not exactly spelled out in your healthcare directive. If the proxy understands your intentions, he or she will be able to make the best decisions based on your personal requests.

Create a Healthcare Directive

It is best to seek legal help in drafting and signing a healthcare directive. You need to make sure that the document covers all of the issues that could arise and that it is drafted according to legal requirements. You want to make sure that your directive answers important questions that your loved ones may have during this difficult time. The healthcare directive takes pressure off of them in a crisis and gives them peace of mind that they are doing what you want.

A healthcare directive is an essential part of any estate plan. Contact our legal team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. to learn more about healthcare directives and estate plans.

Published July 16, 2019
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