In the even of an accident, injury or illness, a living will, also known as an advance directive can help speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself.  It is a written legal document document specifying your wishes regarding your medical treatment and end-of-life care in the event you become incapacitated in some way. No matter what your age, every adult should have a living will.

In the event that you cannot make decisions regarding your health care needs, the advance directive will be signed by a competent person who can provide guidance for such decisions. Along with a living will, other types of advance directives include:

• Health Care Power of Attorney (POA): A health care power of attorney is a document that legally designates a person as a health care agent or proxy to make medical decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated.
• Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR): Even if your living will does not contain the DNR order, your doctor can include it in your medical chart. A DNR order is a request to not be given CPR should you stop breathing.

Designating someone you trust as a health care agent or is an important step to take, even though it’s not necessary to have both a living will and a POA. Many take comfort in the peace of mind that can come with knowing a specific person will make decisions on their behalf.

If the  unexpected occurs you will want your desires to be known.  This is a very stressful time for your loved ones and you can save them from the burden  of making health care decisions when they may have different opinions or be unaware of your wishes.

Dan Mikas, Administrator of Angelic Palliative and Hospice Care, discussing the importance of a living will on Living Well with Robin Stoloff.