Advance directives are legal instructions that include a living will (different from a regular will) and a health care proxy. In them, you state what treatments you do or don’t want at the end of your life and who you want making health care decisions for you if you can’t.
Putting together an advance directive was part of my estate and end-of-life planning this year.
Below are resources I used to help me prepare my advance directive:
Advance directive forms
This is what you fill out to make your wishes known. Depending on your state, the living will and health care proxy forms might be separate, or they might be combined into one document. A list of forms by state is available here.
Here is a card you can print out and include in your wallet with info about your advance directive
Questions I asked myself
I found these two sets of worksheets helpful for figuring out my own wishes and clarifying them to my health care proxy.
The American Bar Association's Tool Kit for Health Care Advance Planning
The Conversation Project's Conversation Starter Guide
In addition to using them to help me fill out my advance directive, I also used them to create separate guidance documents, which are not legally binding, for the person who I named my health care proxy. These include my personal priorities and examples of how I have made medical decisions in the past. I also printed out some of the pages from the worksheets with my responses to different hypothetical medical situations.
Information about life support treatments
I found these resources helpful for evaluating when I may or may not want life support treatments.
The Cleveland Clinic's Life Support Measures
Kaiser Permanente's Should I Receive CPR and Life Support?
ScienceDirect's Persistent Vegetative State
Time Magazine’s Why Your Doctor Probably Has a Do Not Resuscitate Order
Questions I’d like asked on my behalf if I can’t ask them myself
These documents provide examples of the types of questions I would like my health care proxy to ask on my behalf if I can’t ask them myself. I included these links as a resource for him.
American Bar Association’s Making Medical Decisions for Someone Else
Everplan’s How to Be A Good Health Care Proxy
John Hopkins Medicine’s Questions to Ask Before Surgery
National Institute on Aging’s Providing Care and Comfort at the End of Life
Photo by Jo Naylor, CC BY 2.0.