Advanced directives can help make sure your wishes are carried out.
End-of-life issues can be hard to think about. Even so, people who care for you shouldn’t have to guess how you want to be treated when you are seriously ill or dying.
You can start planning for your future health care at any age. It’s best to being by talking about your preferences with your family, your doctor, and any others who may play a role in your care. Then put your wishes in writing.
Advanced directives are legal tools that help make sure your health care wishes are carried out if you can’t speak for yourself. Some people use preprinted forms, while others write their own directives. These documents must be properly witnessed to give them legal status.
Other people prefer to hire an attorney who knows what laws apply and how to prepare documents that will meet legal requirements.
At a minimum, you should consider these types - living will, durable power of attorney for health care and combination document – recommended by the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association.
You can change or cancel your advance directives at any time. If you make changes, such as appointing a new health care proxy, contact anyone who may be affected. If you move to a new state, check whether your original documents are still legal in that state.
Types of advanced directives
A living will describes the type of medical treatment you would want if you were terminally ill, permanently unconscious, or in a vegetative state. You may give specific instructions about receiving or refusing certain life-prolonging intervention, such as feeding tubes, artificial breathing, or surgery.
Durable power of attorney for health care
This is a legal document in which you appoint someone else, called an agent, to make health care decisions for you in the event that you become incapable of doing so. This document is more comprehensive than the living will and is the preferred document of the state of Wisconsin. Once the document is completed, it does not take effect unless you are found to be incapacitated by two physicians after an examination.
Resources and expectations
- Advanced directive documents may be obtained from:
- Memorial Health Center (social services), 715-748-8177
- Hope Hospice (Medford WI), 715-748-3434
- Taylor County Human Services (Medford, WI), 715-748-3332
- Taylor County Commission on Aging (Medford, WI), 715-748-1491
- www.dhfs.state.wi.us; click on “Topics A-Z,” then choose “Advance Directives”
The documents need to be witnessed by two people who are at least 18 years old. They cannot be appointed health care agents, cannot be related, cannot be financially responsible for you, and cannot be health care providers or employees of yours.
Standard operating procedure for health care institutions, including Memorial Health Center, is to ask if you have an advance directive.