If you’re like most people, planning for the future means saving up for retirement. But believe it or not, it's possible to plan for your medical future as well. Though hard to think about, there may come a time when you can’t make your own health-related decisions - that’s when having an advanced directive can help. What is an advanced directive? An advanced directive is a legal document that spells out your desired medical instructions to your doctor or caregiver in the event that you’re unable to communicate them yourself. It could be used if you were to get in an accident, lose consciousness for an extended period of time or come down with a serious illness. Advanced directives also give you the ability to name someone as your decision-maker (that person can decide what to do medically, but isn’t authorized to have control over any money or property). Why is it important to have one? While most people have a vague idea of the critical treatment they’d want to receive in an emergency situation, their family may not be aware. Perhaps you would want to request or refuse antibiotics, cardiac resuscitation or feeding tubes. An advanced directive makes sure that your doctors follow those instructions without question. How do I file an advanced directive? It’s actually really simple. Just follow these steps:
- Talk to your doctor, family members, close friends or a trusted religious figure about the best medical plan for you, taking into account your personal health issues and desires.
- If you decide to name someone as your proxy, make sure they are someone you trust and that they are comfortable taking on the responsibility. Go over your plan of action with that person so they are prepared if they ever need to act on your behalf.
- Fill out the Patient Advance Directive form found on our website and get it signed by a witness or your named decision-maker. You don’t need a lawyer—once you and your witness sign, it’s legally binding.
- Once complete, give copies to anyone who might need to have access to it, like your doctor, spouse, designated proxy or other friends/family members. Be sure to also keep one for yourself in a safe place.
- You can edit these directives at any time should you change your mind. If revisions are made, you’ll need to complete and sign a new document and destroy the old one to avoid confusion.
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