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What Are Advance Directives?

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Regardless of your age and physical health, looking into signing advance directives is an important step in anyone’s life. 

Advance directives will allow others to make informed medical decisions on your behalf in the case where you are unable to make them. Especially while you are under the care of a CDPAP caregiver.

Emergencies happen when we least expect them to, and advance directives are a great way to alleviate stress from your loved ones in case you find yourself in a medically dire situation.

What Are Advance Directives?

An advance directive is a written, legal document which authorizes someone to make decisions on your behalf in case of medical emergency or terminal sickness in which you are not capable of making conscious decisions. The document can legally only be used in the case that you are deemed unable to make decisions over your medical status.


This document can then be accessed by doctors who have authority over your situation to make medical decisions, regarding situations such as whether to be taken or kept on life support if you are in a coma after a certain amount of time. Advanced directives are only related to medical matters, not anything financial or personal outside of your medical state.

How to Prepare and Create an Advance Directive

In most cases, there are two parts to an advance directive. The first involves indicating your personal preferences as to how certain situations should be handled in case you are not able to decide at that moment. This is also the part in which you designate a health care power of attorney (POA).


Advance directives often contain a living will which “describes the type of medical treatment the person would want or not want” in case you are in a coma or in a terminally ill situation where there is little chance of survival or regaining of consciousness. This is the second part of the directive which is optional, but usually included.


After filling out the document according to your state, you will need to check and follow the state requirements for getting it legalized. It is important to note that advance directives are not legally required to receive medical treatment anywhere in the United States. They are highly recommended, but are ultimately up to you to decide whether you want one or not.

Who Should be Given Medical Power of Attorney in an Advance Directive?

Who you give medical power of attorney is a question of personal preference. It could be a child, spouse, or any other close family member you trust. In some cases, if you have a certified caregiver, you may be more comfortable having them make medical decisions for you. That said, as you decide who you will be giving medical authority to in the case of an emergency, it is important to:


●       Trust the person to make the best decision on your behalf

●       Discuss at length medical care and end-of-life issues which may arise

●       Be a mature advocate in case any disagreements regarding your case arise


The person involved in your advance directive should ideally be in good health or younger than you. Before signing any papers, make sure to take time communicating precisely your preferences and expectations regarding different possible situations that may arise. This may include questions of resuscitation, medication, and life-sustaining treatment.

Why Are Advance Directives so Important?

Advance directives are important because you can never know when an emergency may come up. Vehicle crashes, strokes, and other accidents can never be predicted and having a back up plan in the case of these situations arising is not only important for your medical and physical wellbeing, but also to reduce the stress of loved ones around you who may be affected by your situation.


In terms of your autonomy, it gives you a method of having a say in what happens to you and your body medically speaking when you cannot communicate. Although it may be difficult to talk about this kind of situation, especially when it comes to questions about life support, they are important to deal with early so you can rest easy that your preferences and choices are taken into account even if you cannot represent yourself.


If you have a Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) caregiver, having an advance directive is especially important so it is clear what steps they are to take if faced with difficult decisions regarding your treatment. Again, this document only applies to cases in which the person can no longer properly represent themselves due to their physical or mental situation.

Other Points to Know About Advance Directives

All of this legal and medical information can seem overwhelming and difficult to navigate, but with the help of this guide and professional legal advice, creating an advance directive can be a straightforward process.

Now that we have covered the basics on what advance directives are and why they are important, the rest of this guide will go through important details to note about advance directives.

Every State Regulates Advance Directives Differently

It is crucial to do proper research, preferably with the help of a professional attorney, on the exact terms each state has regarding advance directives. For example, the state you reside in may require a witness at the signing of the advance directive, while others may not. There are certain states which require a notarized signature, as well.

Advance Directives Can be Modified

Although it is important to take the process very seriously and take your time to create the terms for your advance directive, it is important to know that as long as you are still physically and mentally capable to do so, the document can be modified, updated, or cancelled in accordance with state law.

What if I Have Residences in Several States?

If you have residences or family members living in several different states, you are allowed to file an advance directive for each one. This is a good way to make sure that no matter where you face an emergency, your voice and personal preferences about what medically happens to you can be taken into account legally.

Keeping Your Health Care Proxy Up-To Date

Always make sure your health care proxy and medical team is up to date by providing them with updated copies of your advance directives. If any modifications or updates are made, keep them informed and give them the new advance directives. This applies to all medical teams you have across the country.


Advance Directives should be an important part of any adult’s life, no matter if they are nearing old age or are suffering from a severe condition. Anyone over the age of 18 is recommended to begin thinking about what exactly they would want in situations of peril, and to get it on paper and legalized in order to officialize their autonomy.


While this guide can help you navigate the basics of what advance directives are, their importance, and key steps in the process of creating an advance directive, it is recommended to seek professional, legal advice from a lawyer through this process. Medical decisions are extremely personal to each and every individual, and it is important that all legal parts be clear for the person concerned.