Most people need medical care sometime before they pass away. If you cannot make decisions for yourself, you can appoint a health care agent to make those decisions.
A health care directive can provide significant relief for both you and the one making the decisions for you.
In a health care directive, you are able to choose an agent to make your health care decisions for you after you lose the capacity to make those decisions yourself. You can give them guidance regarding your wishes so their decisions can align with your beliefs, values, and concerns.
Topics to Address with Your Health Care Agent
The following questions, provided by the U.S. Veterans Administration, provide useful topics to discuss with the person you choose to make your health care decisions.
How important are these items to you? You can rate them “not important,” “somewhat important,” and “very important.”
- Preserve my quality of life
- Be independent
- Be alert and competent
- Be able to relate to family and friends
- Be comfortable and as pain-free as possible
- Leave good memories for family and friends
- Leave money to family, friends or charity
- Let nature take its course
- Die in a short time rather than lingering
- Live as long as possible, no matter the quality of life
- Stay true to my spiritual beliefs and traditions
- Help with medical research or teaching
You can answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:
- Do you want to take part in making decisions about your care and
- Do you always want to know the truth about your condition?
- Do you want your finances taken into account when treatment decisions are being made?
- Would you want palliative care, which offers comfort measures that focus on relief of suffering and control of symptoms so you can do what is most important to you?
- How do you feel about using life-sustaining measures in the face of terminal illness? Do you have strong feelings about certain medical
treatments (such as mechanical breathing, CPR, feeding tube, kidney dialysis, intensive care, chemo or radiation therapy)?
- Would you want to avoid certain treatments only if death was certain?
- Would you want certain treatments if used to prolong the dying process?
- Would you accept certain treatments to lessen pain?
- What will be important to you when you are dying?
- Would you prefer at-home hospice care or would you prefer to be in a hospital?
- Do you want to be an organ donor?
Providing this guidance to your health care agent can help your agent make decisions that align with your beliefs, values, and concerns.
While a health care directive is not legally required, it is a useful tool and easy to prepare with your other estate planning documents.