Living Will/Health Care Proxy
What are Advance Directives?
An “Advance Directive” is a legal document that allows you to make decisions about the medical care we would want to receive in the event we are incapable of making the decision. For example, in the event you are in a coma or cognitively impaired and can’t communicate your wishes, an advance directive can be used to assure your wishes are honoured.
There are two types of advance directives. The first is a “Living Will” and the second a “Health Care Proxy” sometimes referred to as a “Health Care Power of Attorney.” In some cases you may with to create a document that incorporates both. They are explained below.
Living Will – This document lists the types of medical treatment you would and would not want in various situations. It provides a written record of your preferences that can guide your physician and/or loved ones in making decisions when you are incapable of making decisions yourself or in the event the end of your life is near.
Health Care Proxy/Health Care Power of Attorney – This document designates a proxy (surrogate or representative) whom you empower to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so for yourself. This can be a family member friend or any trusted associate. It cannot be your physician. You are advised to choose someone you trust and with whom you have detailed discussion of your wishes.
Combined Living Will & Health Care Proxy – In some cases a combined document is preferable. In this instance you would outline some basic directives in the living will portion and designate a proxy to make any additional decisions.
In all instances you must be at least 18 years of age, or have graduated from high school, be married, or be an emancipated minor to execute an advance directive. There are some differences from state to state regarding these documents. In Pennsylvania, you can contact the Department of Aging at 717-783-1550 for additional information regarding advance directives in Pennsylvania.
An Advance Care Directive can make the decision making process go more smoothly in the time of medical crisis. It can also help relieve the burden of potential differences between family members. Copies of your Advance Directive should be given to your primary physician and close family members/friends.
Many people use an attorney to assist in developing an Advance Directive, but it is not required that you do so. Advance directive forms are available from a variety of sources. A list of resources for additional information is below. If you have questions and would like information on Advance Directives you can call Allied Services at 570-826-3888.
Pennsylvania Department of Aging
U.S. Administration on Aging
Partnership for Caring