At any point in life, a medical emergency may occur in which you are unable to make decisions about your healthcare. Advance care planning allows you to plan for this scenario ahead of time and think through and communicate certain medical care preferences to your family and healthcare team.
Once your preferences have been determined, they may be captured in a legal document called an advance directive. An advance directive will help others understand your wishes regarding specified medical care decisions. It will only be used if you are unable to communicate or make decisions related to your healthcare due to an illness or injury.
The two main components of an advance directive are a living will and a durable power of attorney.
- A living will is a legal document that communicates to your healthcare team decisions about listed medical treatments you would or would not like to receive if you are unable to communicate your own decisions regarding medical care.
- A durable power of attorney for healthcare is a legal document that allows a person of your choice to make medical decisions on your behalf (also known as a healthcare proxy), should you not be able to make the decisions yourself.
Your situation or preferences may change over time. You can change your advance directive at any time. Make sure you discuss changes with your healthcare team and your chosen health proxy and update your documents.