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What is an advance health care directive?
An advance directive is a legal document that helps you identify how you want to be cared for and treated medically when certain situations and conditions occur. Most people think of an advance health care directive for end-of-life care; however, the advance health care directive is actually more extensive than that. Every adult should have an advance health care directive, and some say any person who has a driver’s license should have an advance health care directive. When you need an agent to speak on your behalf, the advance health care directive identifies who that person will be speaking on your behalf. However, the advance directive can be changed at any time.
Physicians and other health care providers appreciate an advance health care directive because it serves as a road map for how that person has chosen to be cared for depending on their condition.
Is an advance health care directive the same as a will?
A will is not an advance health care directive. Each state actually has their own form. In California, there’s a California probate form that a person can print off the Internet that serves as an advance health care directive. Attorneys can help with the advance health care directives but a will is not an advance health care directive.
What about power of attorney?
There are different types of durable powers of attorney. There is durable power of attorney for health care and there’s a durable power of attorney for finance. We deal mostly with durable power of attorney for health care decisions and that would be identified on your advance health care directive and that’s really the person who’s speaking on your behalf.
How do I find the advance health care directive form? Do I need a lawyer?
You don’t have to have a lawyer to do an advance health care directive. You can find the forms here.
An advance directive is a tool to help people, but it’s flexible. The most important components of great care at end of life is for the patient to have a clarity about how they want to be cared for. Clarity comes through physician conversation, the patient exploring their own values, etc. Patients want to hear the truth, and when people get the truth they are able to make better decisions.
What if I do not want to be resuscitated?
Typically, when a person decides to not be resuscitated, that’s a conversation that starts with their physician and would be an in-depth conversation because certain situations and conditions might warrant a resuscitation while others would not.
For More Information
Find an advanced care directive form and learn more about Sharp HospiceCare.
To learn more about Sharp's senior health services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about senior health, read the Senior Health News archive.