Make sure that the care you receive now and in the future is what you want. Discuss with your family and provider what you would like done in the event you become ill and are unable to communicate for yourself. Advising your healthcare provider of your wishes/desires in the event you are unable to communicate is called giving "advanced directives".
Advance directives describe two types of legal document that "direct" providers in your care when you are unable to speak for yourself. These documents are called a "living will" and a "medical power of attorney". A living will is a document that outlines your wishes for care at the end of your life. A medical power of attorney or "healthcare proxy" names someone that you have chosen to make healthcare decisions for you when you are unable.
After I sign the document, can I change my mind?
You can change your mind and rewrite your advance directives at any time. Always make copies of the document. If you are admitted to another hospital, have a family member bring a copy of the document.
Are advanced directives the same in every state/province and country?
No, the documents can vary greatly. Your healthcare provider or local hospital can provide you with advance directive forms that apply to where you live.
How do I know what type of care I will want?
While many people find it uncomfortable, it is important to talk with your family about what you would like done in the event you are unable to speak for yourself. Don’t assume they know or burden them with the responsibility of guessing what you would like. Discuss with your healthcare provider what treatment is available under different circumstances. For example, what would you like done if you develop a problem breathing that requires a ventilator to breathe for you? Would you like to be placed on a ventilator? What if your lungs are damaged to the point that you will never be able to breathe without the assistance of a ventilator? It is important not only to discuss with your family and provider what can be done for you at end of life, but also what quality of life you desire.
When should I talk to my healthcare provider about end-of-life care?
The best time to talk to your healthcare provider is before you get sick. Schedule a time with your provider when you can discuss your preferences for care. Bring a family member with you to help clarify questions and hear the discussion.