“Advance Directives” is a general name for several kinds of documents you can sign to help ensure that your wishes about medical treatment are known and respected if you are unable to communicate for yourself. Designate someone who can speak on your behalf at times when you can’t.

When people are brought to the doctor or hospital unprepared and without a support system, it can make an already stressful situation even more stressful. In these uncertain times we are reminded how quickly our situation could change. What if you were suddenly hospitalized? Who would speak for you? Make decisions for you?

What is an Advance Directive and What Health Care Advance Directives are There?

You have the right to make decisions about the health care you get now and in the future. An advance directive is a legal document, prepared by you, that expresses what kind of medical care you want, or who is authorized to make decisions for you should you be unable to make or communicate your wishes.

Health care advance directives include the following:

  • A living will
  • Health care power of attorney
  • Do not resuscitate (DNR) order
  • Physician’s orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST)

Where Can You Get an Advance Directive?

You can get an advance directive from any of the following:

  • Your health care provider
  • Your attorney
  • Your local area agency on aging
  • Your state health department

Requirements for Making Valid Health Care Advance Directives Vary from State to State

For help with advance directives in your state, visit CaringInfo, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), where you can download a free advance directive form for your state and also find the following resources:

Resources and Tools: