Advance Directives

Mother and daughter having advance care planning discussion with physician

What if you had a sudden, severe illness and could not speak for yourself? Who would you want to speak for you? What would you want them to know about your care preferences? An advance directive can speak for you and aid your loved ones to honor your wishes.

Formal advance directives are documents written in advance of serious illness that state your choices for health care, or name someone to make those choices if you become unable to make decisions. Through advance directives, such as living wills and durable powers of attorney for health care, you can make legally valid decisions about your future medical treatment.

A living will is a document in which you can stipulate the kind of life-prolonging medical care you want if you become terminally ill, permanently unconscious, or in a vegetative state and unable to make your own decisions.

A durable power of attorney for health care is another kind of advance directive: a signed, dated, and witnessed document naming another person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself at any time, not just at the end of life.

There is valid fear and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. The best time to plan for your future healthcare choices is before a medical crisis occurs so you can control who speaks for you if you can not speak for yourself. It is more important now more than ever that your loved ones and healthcare team understand what matters most to you in the event you become seriously ill. 

The following materials from Respecting Choices can help you think about the process and start necessary conversations.

COVID-19 Proactive Care Planning for High-Risk Adults

COVID-19 Proactive Care Planning for Healthcare Agents

You may download a form from Brookings Health System below. Other sources include:

Caring Connections 
National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization 
1700 Diagonal Road, Suite 625 
Alexandria, VA 22314 

American Hospital Association

Aging with Dignity