A health care directive, also sometimes called an advance medical directive, is one of the most important documents in your estate plan or living will. Your advance medical directive will outline your medical wishes in the event that you can no longer clearly communicate those wishes to others or you experience some kind of incapacitation that leaves you unable to make decisions on your own behalf.
Although there are cookie-cutter directive forms available online, you will receive the most protection possible by creating your own unique document. Part of that process will involve thinking carefully about your medical wishes and needs, as well as the resources you have and the legacy you want to leave behind.
Are there religious restrictions that affect your medical care?
If your faith does not allow you to receive blood transfusions or certain kinds of vaccines, you certainly don’t want to have someone make a decision that violates your religious beliefs when you can’t speak on your own behalf.
Having a clear statement in your health care directive about any religious-related medical preferences is of the utmost importance. You may want to consider filing a copy of your health care directive with your physician or with the hospital nearby where your family would likely seek care for you in an emergency. That way, the facility has a record of your wishes along with your family members who will make decisions on your behalf.
Do your medical or financial circumstances influence the care you want?
Perhaps you have a degenerative condition that will only get worse with time. Maybe you have limited financial resources and have already decided that you don’t want to spend that money on health care for yourself in your golden years. It’s also possible that you want to continue fighting regardless of the situation.
Including preferences about intense interventions, ranging from resuscitation to life support, can guide your loved ones and medical professionals in adhering to your wishes regarding the amount of care you receive.
There are other personal factors that could also influence your wishes, such as a deep fear of being placed on a ventilator or an aversion to nutritional support if you aren’t able to feed yourself. Making decisions about end-of-life care, pain control, emergency interventions and even organ donation in your advanced medical directive will help ensure that other people know what your wishes are in order to follow them.