Advance directives are documents that allow you to provide instructions for your health care in case you are not able to communicate with your doctors and other care givers. A living will allows you to state your medical preferences and a health care power of attorney allows you to name someone who will have the authority to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to think clearly or communicate your wishes.
These documents can help make sure your wishes are carried out. But they won’t do any good if the right people don’t know they exist or don’t know where to find them. Once you have signed the original copies of your documents, you will need to make several copies to share with the people who need to know about your decisions.
File the original copy of your documents in an obvious location. Don’t lock them away in a “safe” place such as a locked file cabinet or safe deposit box. Put them where someone could find them in a hurry. You may also want to carry a note with the location of your advance directives in your wallet so others will know where to look for the documents. Consider giving signed copies to each of these people or facilities:
• Health care proxy – This is the person you have chosen to help make sure your wishes are carried out. You should go through each of your advance care documents with him to clarify any details as needed, and make sure he has a copy of your instructions for future reference. Also make sure he knows where to find the original documents.
• Family members – Share your advance directives with your close family members who might want to have input into your care if you are seriously injured or ill. Talking through your decisions in advance gives you the chance to help them understand what you want which will make a difficult time easier if you become ill in the future.
• Doctor – Give a copy to your doctor for your medical record and talk through the documents. Make sure your doctor will support your decisions.