It’s helpful if you can let your doctors know in advance what you want to happen if you can’t speak for yourself. An Advance Health Care Directive lays out who you want to speak for you and what kind of treatments you want. In this way, you are prepared before health care decisions need to be made.

You can make an Advance Directive if you are 18 years or older and capable of making your own medical decisions. You can choose an adult relative or any other person you trust to speak for you when medical decisions must be made.

Usually, a health care agent will make decisions only after you lose the ability to make them yourself. But, if you wish, you can state in a Power of Attorney for Health Care — a document used in California — that you want the agent to begin making decisions immediately.

Sometimes, treatment decisions are hard to make and it truly helps if your agent knows what you want. Your wishes also are written into your Advance Directive. You can say that you want to have your life continued as long as possible, or you can say that you don’t want treatments to continue your life. You also can express your wishes about the use of pain relief medications or any other type of medical treatment.

You can discuss your wishes with your doctor and ask him or her to list those wishes in your medical record. You are encouraged to discuss your wishes with your family members and/or friends. The easiest method is to write them down and let everyone know you have done so.

What happens if you change your mind? You can alter or cancel your Advance Directive at any time as long as you communicate your wishes. To change the person you want to make your health care decisions, you must sign a statement or tell your doctor.

If your treatment wishes are not known, your surrogate must try to determine what’s in your best interest.

Don’t lose control of important decisions when you’re seriously ill. Give our office a call and we’ll go over your options and design a document that reflects your exact wishes.

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