Preparing an Advance Directive

green leaf with white card
Photo by Helena Hertz via Unsplash

An advance directive lets others know your preferences regarding medical treatment when you cannot do so for yourself. Essentially it is a statement of your choices and it can be prepared in advance. It is a good idea to discuss your wishes with those important to you before you sign the document.

Remember that you’re never done with your Advance Directive until you discuss and share it with others. Also, make sure your loved ones know where it is.

What legal documents do you need?

Different people have different directives throughout the course of their lives. When someone is young and healthy, they may want to set aside general priorities for specific wishes in case they become ill. When a person develops a chronic condition or illness, they may also get a clearer idea of what may happen. This way they are often able to be more specific about what they want. Moreover, when a person has a life-limiting condition, it becomes very important to be explicit about what they want.

A guide for all potential cases:

  • You’re healthy: Jot down your instructions for the people you care about. Even if nothing sudden happens, COVID has reminded us that unexpected things do happen.
  • If you have a chronic disease, you should also have an Advance Directive. Being aware of the possible course of your disease, you can be more specific in saying what you do and don’t want.
  • You have a serious illness: You also want to complete an Advance Directive. Because you know about your disease and its course, you can be more specific in saying what you do and don’t want. Depending on the predicted course, you may also want to complete a POLST (Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment).
  • You don’t have much time: ​An Advance Directive is a document that may contain more information than a POLST form. You definitely want a POLST form, which is signed by your doctor and states what treatments you want and don’t want at the end of life.

What kind of treatments do you want or not want?

If you or someone you know has a specific disease or condition, learn as much about it as you can. Speak with your doctor and other healthcare providers, and consult websites such as WebMD or the website of your own institution. The more you know, the better you will understand what treatments are likely to work for you, their benefits and risks, and how they fit into your values and view of life. It’s normal to feel stress if you’re in a situation where you don’t really know what resuscitation looks and feels like, but there are resources available to help explain these terms to you.

For instance, the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California has created videos and decision aids in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese describing various treatments. Fair Health Consumer offers decision aids as well as information on costs of care.

Final Thoughts

There are several ways to write an Advance Directive, but the best process includes understanding and documenting your state of health, discussing your preferences with friends, family and providers, and thinking about what issues are most important to you. Talk to a friend or family member, your physician or other provider, or even your clergy person. 

Last but definitely not least, Myend’s Advanced Care Plan is a great way of providing detailed information to your loved ones. Sign up now and see how our online services can help you plan ahead!