Our Weekly Tip: Use the Right Tools to Document Your Wishes About End-of-Life Care

It's important to understand the difference between an Advance Directive and a Living Will

Our Tip of the Week: Today, more and more people understand the importance of documenting their wishes about how they want to be cared for as they approach the end of their lives. Yet, thanks in large part to the confusing array of terms that surround end-of-life documentation, many people are still unsure about how to accomplish this essential task. Do you need a Living Will, an Advance Healthcare Directive, a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, or something else?

Man looking for Advance Directive online

Credit: imls.gov

How-to Suggestion: According to health care attorney Allan D. Jergensen, a partner at the San Francisco law firm Hanson Bridgett, LLP, California and most other states require patients to document their end-of-life wishes in a certain way. In California, the appropriate format is through some combination of an Advance Healthcare Directive, Physician’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), and a Pre-Hospital DNR Form. The Advance Health Care Directive should designate a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (also called a healthcare proxy). That is the person you wish to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.

Signing advance directive

Credit: andalbrok.es

Although state laws vary, a “Living Will” is not a legal document in the state of California, and, therefore, may not be sufficient to document your wishes about life sustaining treatments if you are unable to speak for yourself. To ensure that first responders and emergency healthcare providers know exactly what you do and do not want done in the event you are nearing the end of life, ask your doctor to supply you with the appropriate forms. Better yet, start the process now by downloading your state’s Advance Healthcare Directive form from CaringInfo.org

To learn more about things to think about before you die, read SevenPonds complete pre-death guide.

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