Even if you are still active and healthy, if you have not already done so, now is the time to establish an advance health care directive, also known as a living will.
This important legal document ensures that care providers and loved ones know, respect and follow your wishes should a medical condition prevent you from making informed choices on your own.
In addition to providing yourself with peace of mind, an advance directive may help loved ones to cope more easily with difficult end-of-life decisions. In Virginia, as in other states, there are three basic options for advance care planning.
1. Create a living will
An advance directive/living will allows you to clearly indicate what types of life-sustaining treatments you are willing to undergo if medical circumstances prevent you from being able to communicate your wishes.
Examples of life-sustaining treatments may include the use of a feeding tube or breathing machine, receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation, undergoing kidney dialysis or requiring permanent assistance with basic daily functions.
2. Authorize a durable power of attorney for health care
You may also designate a trusted agent to make medical choices for you through a durable power of attorney for health care. In addition to deciding whether to start or stop specific medical treatments, an authorized agent gains access to medical records and other personal health information.
3. Establish both a living will and power of attorney
Finally, you may establish both an advance directive with specific instructions about receiving or forgoing life-sustaining treatments and an agent with durable power of attorney. In this case, you may also indicate whether your agent should follow your specific instructions strictly or use his or her own judgment to determine what health care approach is in your best interest.