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Everything You Need to Know About Advance Health Directives

Everything You Need to Know About Advance Health Directives

Everyone deserves to be treated ethically and compassionately when faced with health care issues. Whether you are living in a facility or aging in place, it’s every individual's right to choose their own course of treatment and participate in a plan of care that honors their personal wishes. 

But what happens when an unexpected emergency strikes and you can't communicate what those wishes are? That’s where an advance health directive comes in. 

What Is an Advance Health Directive?

Advance health directives are your wishes for treatment in an emergency situation. They give medical personnel a clear picture of how you want to be treated. Because they are created ahead of time, advanced directives help alleviate stress and uncertainty for both you and your loved ones during a crisis.

The methods for setting up advance health directives differs on a state-by-state basis. It's important to be aware of all the options that are available to you. Being informed of your emergency choices is a crucial part of consistent senior care. Check in with Senior Helpers Mechanicsville to learn more about laws in Virginia.

What Are the Different Types of Advance Health Directives?

Advance health directives deal with critical questions such as:

  • What do emergency responders do if my heart stops?

  • Do I want to be kept alive if I'm in a terminal situation with no chance of recovery?

  • Who can make choices for me if I can't make them myself?

Some key documents used to record these wishes include:

  • Living will

  • Power of Attorney 

  • HCP


  • Non-hospital DNR

Living Will

A living will is a comprehensive document that you create in conjunction with your lawyer. A living will deals with healthcare decisions, rather than your financial assets like a regular will. Living wills contain a combination of directives including your wishes for resuscitation, feelings about hospice, and wishes about long-term medical interventions like IV hydration or intubation.

A living will may also contain a living trust which dictates how to utilize your assets for medical care should you become incapacitated.


An HCP, or healthcare proxy, is someone you authorize to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. Most advanced directive forms give you a method for naming a primary proxy and a backup proxy. There are also stand-alone healthcare proxy forms that you can fill out. These forms are readily available at your doctor's office.

Non-hospital DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)

If you are fortunate enough to be aging in place at home, you may never have considered how you feel about CPR. You may wish to fill out a non-hospital DNR form. This form tells emergency responders that you decline CPR and other heroic measures in case of an emergency.


MOLST and POLST forms stand for "Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment" and "Physicians Orders" respectively. Like a living will, these forms provide a comprehensive way for you to record your HCP, DNR status, and any long-term medical interventions that you wish. The MOLST/POLST form is an attempt to standardize advanced directives across the entire United States.  Nearly every state uses one of these forms in some capacity, with the only difference being the name. Because they require a doctor to review and sign, they hold more legal authority than other advanced directive forms.

For seniors requiring a home caregiver, planning for the future is important. Medical complexity brings tough decisions. Making them ahead of time rather than during a crisis can make end-of-life experiences more peaceful for both you and your family members.

For more information about staying happy, healthy, and comfortable while aging in place please contact us at Senior Helpers of Mechanicsville, VA. We provide consistent senior care in Mechanicsville, Richmond, Highland Spring, and Quinton.