Writing an Advance Directive - Topic Overview
What is an advance directive?
advance directive is a form that you fill out to
describe the kinds of medical care you want to have if something happens to you
and you can't speak for yourself. It tells your family and your doctor what to
do if you're badly hurt or have a serious illness that keeps you from saying
what you want.
What are the different types?
There are two main
types of advance directives:
living will tells your family and your doctor what
kinds of treatment you want to receive as you near the end of your life and if
you can no longer speak for yourself. A living will is also called a treatment
- A medical power of attorney lets you name a person to
make treatment decisions for you when you can't speak for yourself. This person
is called a
health care agent or health care proxy.
As long as you can still make your own decisions, your
advance directive won't be used. You can stop or say "no" to treatment at any
How do you write an advance directive?
advance directive, you'll need to follow these four
- 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.
- Choose your health care
agent. This should be a person you trust to make decisions for
- Fill out the forms, and have them witnessed as your state
- Give copies to your family, your doctor, and your health care
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 them online at www.caringinfo.org or by calling
When you write your advance directive, think about the kinds of
treatments that you do or don't want to receive if you get seriously hurt or
Consider whether you want to:
- Receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
if your heart stops.
- Be on a machine that pumps air into your lungs
through a tube if you can't breathe on your own.
- Be on a machine
that cleans your blood if your kidneys stop working.
- Be fed or get
fluids through a tube if you can't eat or drink.
- Take medicines to
treat serious infections.
These are tough choices to make, but you don't have to
make them alone. Take your time. Share your questions or concerns about what to
include in your advance directive with your doctor or nurse, your lawyer, your
family, or a friend.
What if you want to change what is in your advance directive?
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 information unless it's only to change your address or phone
Frequently Asked Questions