State your health care preferences.
Decisions about end of life medical care can be much easier when advance directives are used. An Advance directive is a written instruction, such as a living will or durable power of attorney for health care, made while you are competent, about the medical treatment you want when you consciously cannot make decisions. By stating your health care preferences in writing about end of life care, your decisions are legally valid and will be respected by medical professionals, the health care decision-makers designated by you, and your family.
A Health Care Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to name a person who will act on your behalf to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself.
A Living Will is a document that allows you to establish, in advance, the type of medical care you would want to receive if you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to tell your physician or family what kind of life-sustaining treatments you want to receive.
If you want to use an advance directive, we recommend that you:
- Get the form. If you want an advance directive, you can get the form that complies with state law from your lawyer, from a social worker, from some office supply stores and from organizations that provide information about Medicare. You can also contact Member Services to ask for the forms (phone numbers are listed on the back of your member ID card).
- Complete the form and sign as directed. Regardless of where you get the advance directive form, keep in mind that it is a legal document. Consider asking a lawyer help you prepare it.
- Give copies of the signed forms to appropriate people. We recommend that you give a copy of the form to your physician, your lawyer, and to the person you name on the form to make decisions for you. You may also give copies to close friends or family members. Be sure to keep a copy at home.
If you know ahead of time that you are going to be hospitalized, and you have an advance directive, take a copy with you to the hospital.
- If you are admitted to the hospital, a hospital staff member will ask whether you have an advance directive and whether you have it with you.
- If you have not signed an advance directive, the hospital has forms available and a staff member will ask if you want to sign one.
Remember, it is your choice of whether you want to complete an advance directive (including whether you want to sign one if you are in hospital). Under the law, no one can deny you care or discriminate against you based on whether or not you signed an advance directive.
Advance directives should be reviewed on a periodic basis so they can be updated as necessary.
Last updated: 9/23/2015