How to Make Your Healthcare Wishes Known
Advance Directives help you express how you want to be treated if you are seriously ill and unable to speak for yourself. Advance Directives give clear direction to your loved ones and your clinical care team regarding medical treatment you want or do not want to have. An Advance Directive is a gift to you and your family. It allows you to maintain control over how you are treated and ensures that you experience the type of care and the type of death that you desire.
By completing an Advance Directive you empower your loved one to act on your behalf and ensure that they will make decisions about continuing or discontinuing treatment that upholds and respects your specific wishes for treatment.
1. A Health Care Proxy: Is a document that lets you name someone to make decisions about your medical care, including decisions about life support. By completing a Health Care Proxy Form you are appointing someone to speak for you anytime you are unable to make your own medical decisions, not only at the end of life.
2. Living Will: Is a document that lets you state your wishes about medical care in the event that you develop an irreversible condition that prevents you from making your own medical decisions. The Living Will becomes effective if you become terminally ill, permanently unconscious or minimally conscious due to brain damage and will never regain the ability to make decisions. In a living will, you identify clearly the healthcare treatment you want or do not want.
Completing both documents helps to ensure that you receive the medical care you desire. However, you should continue to have ongoing discussions with your spokesperson to assure that person knows your values and wishes and can speak on your behalf regardless of what your circumstances may be.
In addition, it is beneficial to have completed both documents in case you suffer an injury or acute medical episode while traveling and are unable to make decisions for yourself.
When creating Advance Directives it is important to choose as your proxy someone who you trust to carry out your goals and values. Be sure to talk with your agent about your wishes in detail and confirm that he or she agrees to act on your behalf. You can always change or revoke your proxy. If you do make a change, make sure your proxy is aware of the change you make.
So long as you can make decisions, you are in charge. Therefore, your health care proxy can only make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to communicate your decisions.
An attorney is not needed and the documents do not have to be notarized. However, the documents do require witnesses.
National Healthcare Decisions Day
American Hospital Association – Put It In Writing
Aging With Dignity
New York State Department of Health – Healthcare Proxy
Westchester End-of-Life Coalition
Blue Cross Blue Shield Advance Care Planning Guide
Do Your Proxy - Frequently Asked Questions and how to get started