It’s no fun to think about, but it’s a reality for all of us. At some point we will all need some form of medical care and/or end-of-life care. You probably have some idea of your preferences, but do your spouse and family know about them? And are you confident that they would follow those wishes under duress? What if the situation becomes uncertain, or family members begin to disagree?
For those reasons and more, an advance medical directive is necessary for everyone. This document will not only protect your interests; it also shields your family members from complicated emotions and disagreements.
So, what does an advance medical directive do, exactly? In the event that you’re ever incapacitated by injury or illness, the document will direct your chosen person as to what steps you wish to be taken. There are actually three different ways that you can do this:
A living will spells out your preferences for medical care in a life-threatening situation, to both your doctors and loved ones. You can use it to instruct them on issues such as resuscitation, artificial feeding, pain relief, and end-of-life care.
A healthcare proxy is a person that you have designated to handle your medical decisions for you. It is less specific than a living will, but could also be considered more flexible. You simple choose a person that you trust, and allow them to make all of your medical decisions for you. If you go this route, make sure to have regular conversations with this person regarding your wishes.
A durable power of attorney grants the person of your choosing with the ability to act on your behalf regarding business and financial matters. This person will be able to manage your money, pay bills, file insurance claims, file for disability benefits, and perform other, similar actions.
Keep in mind that you can appoint different people to each role, in the event that you want to avoid conflicts of interest or over-burdening one person. Consider the strengths of your loved ones carefully, and fill each role accordingly.