If you've decided to write an
advance directive, you've taken an important step to
make sure that your health care wishes are met.
When you write
your advance directive, think about the kinds of treatments you do or don't
want to receive if you get seriously hurt or ill. If you have questions and
need help to get started, see what
things to include in an advance directive for some
Involve your family, your
health care agent, and your doctor as you write your
advance directive so they'll know what you want. If something happens that you
didn't plan for, they'll have a better idea of how you would want to handle
There are many choices to make when you write your advance
directive. Some of these have to do with whether you want certain
To help you decide which medical treatments you do or
don't want to receive, see:
- Should I Receive Artificial Hydration and Nutrition?
- Should I Receive CPR and Mechanical Ventilation?
- Should I Stop Kidney Dialysis?
- Should I Stop Treatment That Prolongs My Life?
- Turning Off Your ICD
These are tough choices to make, but you don't have to
make them alone. Look to your family, your doctor, and your friends for help
Write down your wishes
As you prepare an advance
directive, you'll need to follow these four important steps:
- Get the living will and medical power of
attorney forms for your state.
- Forms are different in each state, so be
sure to get the right ones for where you live.
- You can get the
forms in a doctor's office, hospital, law office, state or local office for the
aging, senior center, or nursing home.
- You can also get the forms
online from Caring Connections at www.caringinfo.org, or by calling
- Your state may offer an online registry. This is a place you can store your advance directive online so authorized health care providers can find it right away.
With Dignity has a form called "Five Wishes" that can be used in many states.
It combines a living will and a medical power of attorney in one form. It also
lets you write down how you want people to treat you and what you want your
family to know. You can order the "Five Wishes" form online at
www.agingwithdignity.org or by calling 1-888-594-7437.
- Choose a health care agent. This should be a
person you trust to make decisions for you. For more information, see the topic
Choosing a Health Care Agent.
- Fill out the
forms, and have them witnessed as your state requires.
- Keep the original form in a safe but accessible place, such as in your desk with other important papers. Let your loved ones know where you keep your forms. Don't keep it in a safe deposit
box unless others can get to it. On each copy, write down where the original
form is kept. Give copies to:
- The person that you choose for your agent and any alternate agents.
- Your lawyer.
- Your doctor or doctors.
- Family members.
- Any other person who may be called if you have a medical emergency.
You can change or cancel your advance directive at any
time. Just fill out new forms and get rid of your existing forms. Or you can
just let your family, your doctor, and your health care agent know about the
change. If you change or create new forms, give everyone an updated copy. Don't just cross out
or add new details unless it's only to change your address or phone