What are advanced directives?

An advanced directive is a legal document that specifies our wishes in the event we cannot make decisions for ourselves at the end of life.

Advanced directives clarify our end-of-life wishes. An example of an advance directive is a living will—essentially an open letter to doctors outlining the decisions we’d like to have made on our behalf at the end of life.

Another example of an advanced directive is a durable power of attorney, also called a healthcare proxy. We give this person the power to make decisions for us in the event we’re no longer able to. This person should be someone who knows us well, loves us, and will honor our final wishes.

“It’s very important to make decisions ahead of time, so that when the situation presents itself, your family and loved ones know what you want to have done.”

Preparing for difficult scenarios ahead of time keeps family from having to make challenging end-of-life decisions in a highly charged setting. It also keeps them from making decisions for us that we may not have agreed with.