An advance directive is a legal document that explains how you want medical decisions about you to be made if you cannot make the decisions yourself. An advance directive is used to guide your health care team and loved ones when they need to make these decisions or to decide who will make decisions for you when you can't. These medical decisions might include special actions or emergency care from your health care team. An advance directive can help you think ahead of time about what kind of care you want.
An advance directive generally is often completed by people in good health and can be used in the event an emergency renders them unable to express decisions regarding their medical care. Advance directives only apply to health care decisions and do not affect financial or money matters.
Health care advance directives communicate a person's wishes about health care decisions in the event the person becomes incapable of making health care decisions. An Advance Directive typically consists of two parts: living wills and health care powers of attorney.
A living will is a limited document that expresses a person's preferences or instructions for future medical care, in the event the person loses capacity to make health care decisions. The focus of a living will is usually end-of-life care, but it can include instructions about any aspect of care or treatment.
A health care power of attorney is a document in which one person names another person to make decisions about health care in the event the principal loses capacity to make health care decisions.
A health care power of attorney differs from a living will in that it focuses primarily on the decision-making process and not on a specific decision. When writing a living will, no person can anticipate all possible circumstances. Thus, the power of attorney for health care can cover as broad a range of health care decisions as the principal desires.