An "advance directive" is a set of directions you give about the health care you want if you ever lose the ability to make these decisions for yourself. Among the ways North Carolina has for you to make a formal advance directive are a "living will," and "health care power of attorney."**
(**An advance directive from another state may not meet all of North Carolina's criteria. To be certain, you may want to have your lawyer review your advance directive from another state to confirm its validity in North Carolina.)
When should you investigate or review advance directives? In an ideal world, everyone would have a health care power of attorney or living will in place; the sad truth is less than one-third of adults do. Experts recommend reviewing your advance directives at critical stages in your life, including the "5 Ds" ... every new Decade of your life, after the Death of a loved one, after a Divorce, after any significant Diagnosis, and after any significant Decline in functioning.
A Living Will is a declaration that you desire to die a natural death should you be terminally and incurably sick or in a persistent vegetative state from which you will not recover. In a living will you can direct your doctor not to use heroic treatments that would delay your dying or to stop such treatments if they have been started. You can also direct your doctor not to begin or to stop artificial nutrition or hydration (i.e. food and/or water through a tube).
A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to name a person to make medical care decisions for you if you later become unable to make such decisions. This person is called your "health care agent." In this legal document, you name exactly who you want your agent to be. You can also say what medical treatments you would and would not want. Your health care agent then knows what choices you would make. Your health care agent should be an adult you trust and you should discuss your wishes with them before your put them in writing.
For additional information on or to schedule an educational program about advance directives, please feel free to call the Hospice office at (336) 427-9022. You may also click here to visit The Carolinas Center's advance directive web page or click here to visit the Caring Connections' Planning Ahead web page.
The American Bar Association also has a very helpful article about advance directives - "Myths and Facts About Health Care Advance Directives" - available on their website. Click here to view article.
For links to other organizations and information, please visit our Resources page.