For many people, end of life care is only something they think about as it pertains to getting older. But the sad reality is that a medical emergency can happen at any time, leaving you unconscious or unable to make decisions for yourself. When this happens, your family members are left to decide what they think or guess at what you would have wanted. Instead of making them choose in this situation, you can create an advance directive, which will clearly state your wishes and leave very little gray area.
An advance directive, if you’ve never heard of one before, is a legal document that is typically made up of two main parts. One is a health care power of attorney, and the other is a living will. It may also contain other documents that pertain to specific situations.
A health care power of attorney is someone that you designate to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated or incapable, for example in a coma or on life support. They will be the person that doctors or other providers will turn to for approval and treatment strategies.
A living will is a document outlining your wishes concerning life support, resuscitation, ventilators, dialysis, feeding tubes or palliative and hospice care. You may also state here if you wish to be a tissue or organ donor.
Anyone over the age of 18 can benefit from an advance directive. It is unknowable when an emergency can arise, and for older people it can be helpful in the face of a dementia diagnosis. Additionally, advance directives are not immutable and can be changed or updated according to your current wishes. What you wanted at 65 may be different than what you want at 85.