The following resources will help guide you through the process of life-transition planning, from the do-it-yourself approach, to fully-automated online platforms.
Featured Resource: LifeExec® - www.lifeexec.com
LifeExec provides a secure life management web application designed for storing your important information along with tailor-made plans to keep your closest contacts informed during any life event.
AARP provides free advanced directive forms for download, along with instructions.
A directive allows you to plan your medical treatment in advance should there ever come a time when you are unable to express your personal health care wishes.
A Medical Power of Attorney is a document used to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf.
A Medical Power of Attorney is also known as:
A Living Will is a document that you use to indicate your medical wishes in the event you are incapacitated or cannot consent to your health care treatment.
Some states use the terms Living Will and Health Care Directive interchangeably, and some states use one term but not the other. Generally, a Living Will and a Health Care Directive both dictate your health care preferences in the event of a medical emergency or incapacitation.
A Health Care Directive may also be used to refer to a document that contains a Living Will and a Medical Power of Attorney. In addition, different states have varying requirements in what constitutes a Living Will or Health Care Directive.
It's important to check your state's laws regarding these documents to determine exactly which documents you need to express your wishes.
If you are unable to express your health care wishes in the future, hospitals and family can reference your Living Will as a statement of your medical wishes.
Alternatively, a Last Will and Testament is a document used to indicate how you would like your assets divided or children cared for after your death. You cannot specify medical treatment preferences with a Last Will.
Without a Health Care Directive, the burden of making your medical decisions falls on your family members. Creating a personal directive not only gives you control of your medical wishes but it saves your family from making tough treatment choices on your behalf.
Additionally, implementing a Medical Power of Attorney allows you to discuss your treatment wishes with someone you trust prior to any unforeseen medical circumstance so they can make health care decisions in your best interest.
Every state has its own limits as to what you are legally permitted to include in your directive. While you may specify instructions for a variety of medical situations and describe your feelings towards quality of life, keep in mind that health care providers can only carry out certain procedures according to your state laws.
Terminal Illness or Injury
If you are terminally ill or injured, you can document which, if any, treatment options you would like to pursue.
Terminally ill or injured means that medical professionals have concluded that you have a condition that cannot be cured and that is expected to result in limited life expectancy.
You can specify whether you would like to receive any form of life support in the event of a medical emergency.
Life support means any life-sustaining procedures done to a patient to restore function to an organ through medical intervention.
Common forms of life support include CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), defibrillators, assisted breathing, dialysis, and artificially administered food and water.
DNR stands for "Do Not Resuscitate", which means you do not wish to receive life support or resuscitation if an organ fails.
You can address which, if any, treatments you would like to receive in the event of permanent unconsciousness, such as a coma or persistent vegetative state.
Permanent unconsciousness is when there is a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the patient can no longer think, feel, knowingly move, or be aware that they are alive, and there is no hope for improvement.
The terms of your directive are binding once you sign the document. It comes into use when you have been found to be incapable of making your own medical decisions. Typically, this may be when you are incapacitated, in a coma, or in a vegetative state.
You can make changes to your personal directive if you destroy your current one, notify your health care representative or hospital of your changes, and create and distribute a new directive. It's important to let everyone in your family know where you keep your advance directive so they can easily find it during an emergency.