To make your advance directive legal, it has to be signed in front or two witnesses or signed in front of a notary public. Notaries can be found in hospitals at no cost to you.
I don’t want to burden my family with having to make decisions for me.
Caring for others is what families do. Sometimes part of that caring involves making decisions. End-of-life decisions can be difficult and an advance directive is one way to ease some of the decision making burden. A person’s wishes are communicated in an advance directive. It is the role of the Power of Attorney to express those wishes after the decision has already been made about end-of-life treatments.
When is the right time to complete an advance directive?
Anyone over the age of 18 can complete an advance directive. As a person ages, it is a good idea to consider end-of-life treatment options. It is never too early to complete an advance directive.
How can I ensure my wishes will be honored?
Your health care provider generally will follow your health care directive, Provider Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), or any instructions from your agent as long as the health care follows reasonable medical practice. You should inform others of your health care documents and give people copies of them. You may wish to inform family members, your health care agent or agents, and your health care providers that you have health care documents. You should give them a copy. It’s a good idea to review and update your directive as your needs change. Keep it in a safe place where it can be easily found.
How should I make decisions about my health care?
It is most important that you think about what is best for you and not what your family, friends, or doctors would want for you. Decision making should be aligned with your values. Your values are what is most important to you and what gives your life meaning. If your values would be threatened with treatments, what would quality of life look like for you? See the Get Prepared page for to help you make decisions about your health care.
What happens if I change my mind?
Advance directives and POLST forms should be reviewed with your doctor on a frequent basis. If you change your mind regarding some of your wishes, a new form can be completed. The most current form will be used.
Who is the best person to choose as my power of attorney (POA)?
It is really important to choose someone as your POA that you trust to express your wishes. In order for them to express your wishes properly, you should have a conversation with them about what your wishes are, even though you have documented them in the forms.
What if my POLST form and my advance directive aren’t in agreement with each other?
In the event this should happen, the more recent document will take precedence over the other.
If my loved one can no longer communicate his or her health care wishes, can we still complete advance care planning forms?
If a person can no longer communicate his or her wishes, it is too late to complete an advance directive. However, family members and caregivers who have a good understanding of their loved one’s wishes can complete a POLST Form with a health care professional.
Where can I get an advance directive and a POLST?
Advance directives can be obtained by contacting your local hospital social work department, contacting your primary care physician’s office or obtain an advance directive here. Get a POLST here. Remember that to complete a POLST form, you must meet with your care provider and go over the form together.
Will emergency medical technicians (EMTs) honor instructions from an advance care directive in emergency situations?
No, EMTs cannot follow advance directives in emergency situations as advance directives are not signed by a physician. However, they can follow orders on a POLST form since a POLST is a doctor’s order. This is also another reason why POLST forms can be beneficial for seriously ill people who do not want to go through some medical treatments in the event of an emergency.