What is a health care directive, and do you need one?

Estate planning is not just for elderly Florida residents. Most adults can benefit from preparing for the future and that includes having a health care directive. Even if you are young, you may have minor children that need to be cared for, want to make sure your kids handle their inheritance right or want to give permission to someone to make medical decisions for you once you are unable.

The National Institute on Aging defines a health care directive, also known as an advance directive, as a document that goes into effect if you cannot speak for yourself or you become incapacitated. Because illness and injuries do not just happen to the elderly, it can be beneficial for every person to have an idea of how they want the end of their life to play out.

Another benefit of a health care directive is that it allows you to express your desires and values when it comes to care at the end of your life. As your health changes or you adapt to a new situation, the directive can be adjusted and is often thought of as a living document.

If something happens to you and you need someone to make decisions about whether to keep you alive, you can appoint someone in your health care directive. Doctors may use artificial means to feed and hydrate you, a ventilator if your body cannot breathe on its own, CPR to resuscitate you or provide comfort care. If you do not want to be kept alive with any of these means, you should make that clear to the person you put in charge of making your medical decisions.

Experts believe that those with an advance directive get the care they want at the end of their lives more often than those without one. A health care directive can truly make a difference.

This is intended for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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