The importance of advance directives in end-of-life care cannot be understated. Advance directives, simply put, are healthcare decisions you make today that are put into action in an end-of-life situation. A living will, designating a healthcare agent and recording any other wishes you would like to have carried out regarding your medical care if you are unable to communicate, are all vital advance directives.
Your Living Will
Having a living will in place allows your loved ones to know how you would like your medical care to proceed at the end of your life. In order for a living will to be the guide for medical decision making:
- You are no longer able to make decisions regarding your medical care
- You are in the medical condition stated in your living will, such as “terminal illness” or “permanent unconsciousness”
- Other requirements per your state are met
Designating a Healthcare Agent- Medical Power of Attorney
In Iowa a healthcare agent or medical power of attorney is a legal instrument used to defer medical decisions to a trusted person should you be incapable of communicating for yourself. This type of appointment grants power to a person you choose to make health care decisions on your behalf consistent with your wishes. It goes into effect when your attending physician determines that you cannot make decisions or act on your own behalf. This should be someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to. They are appointed by completing a durable medical power of attorney for healthcare (healthcare proxy). In order for a durable medical power of attorney to begin, Additional items regarding healthcare agents:
By putting advance directives in place you are benefitting your family and yourself. You are directing your own healthcare, as well as preventing your family from being in the difficult position of making tough choices during an emotional time.
The following are resources to help you and your family get started in establishing your advance directives: