Advance Directives

An advance directive is a way to tell your family and doctor your wishes if you cannot make decisions yourself. A directive can include the type and extent of your medical care. There are forms to help you express your wishes to your family and doctor before a crisis.

Many people are nervous about starting an advance directive. But with the right forms and help from a social worker, you can feel good about the decisions you make.

Who should have advance directives?

Everyone. Each of us may face a medical crisis. Illness or injury can make anyone unable to make health care decisions.

When should I do my advance directives?

Now. It is best to do it while you are able to think clearly and before a crisis happens. You will also want to review and update your directives every year.

What is power of attorney or a health care agent?

You can have another person make health care decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. You can give that person authorization on a form called medical power of attorney. The person you choose is called an agent. This person can be a friend, family member, or licensed professional.

When choosing a health care agent, think of someone you feel close to—someone you trust to communicate with your doctors if you are not able.

Here are some documents to help you understand and prepare to complete an advance directive:

Watch this video from National Healthcare Decisions Day to learn more:

HCI Resources

Did You Know?

  • The two main parts of an advance directive are outlining your healthcare wishes and a medical power of attorney.
  • Outlining your healthcare wishes includes what kind of medical care, especially life-sustaining care, you would or would not like to receive if you become unable to speak for yourself—for example, due to being unconscious or in a coma.
  • A medical power of attorney allows you to name another person to make decisions about your medical care if you are temporarily or permanently unable to communicate or make these decisions for yourself. 


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