Whether you are still healthy and just beginning retirement or already experiencing medical issues, it is never too early to begin planning for the worst. An advance health care directive is an important legal document that establishes your preferences for medical treatment if you become too incapacitated to do so yourself.
Also known as a living will, an advance directive helps to ensure that medical providers and loved ones know and follow your wishes. In addition to providing yourself peace of mind, establishing a directive may prevent family members or others from having to make a difficult decision that they may regret or second-guess for a lifetime.
Establishing instructions for health care
An advance directive usually includes information about whether to provide, withhold or withdraw certain types of treatments should you face a permanent and/or terminal medical condition and are unable to communicate.
Your directive may indicate that you want health care providers to do everything reasonably possible to prolong your life. On the other hand, you may stipulate that you do not want to receive life-sustaining treatments under certain medical conditions, such as permanent unconsciousness or a terminally debilitating injury or illness.
You may also choose in advance whether you wish to receive certain types of potentially invasive treatments, such as intravenous nutrition and hydration, mechanical ventilation or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Durable power of attorney
When completing a health care directive, you may also want to establish a durable power of attorney for health care decisions. This legal tool allows you to designate a trusted individual to make medical decisions on your behalf and ensure that health care providers follow your instructions and wishes.