An illness or injury can rob you of your ability to make medical decisions on your own behalf. This can cause difficulties for you and your loved ones, especially if the condition occurs acutely.
In an advance directive, you make decisions and provide instructions about what you want to happen in this situation so that your family can respond appropriately if it does. The American Academy of Family Physicians describes the different types of advance directives that you can create.
1. Do not resuscitate order
A do not resuscitate order can be part of a larger advance directive, or it can stand on its own. If you have a DNR, it communicates to hospital staff that you do not want cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the event that you stop breathing or your heart stops beating. People who create DNRs are often people with terminal illnesses who want to be able to pass in peace.
2. Living will
A do not resuscitate order is an advance directive that addresses a very specific situation. A living will is more general, describing the types of medical treatments you do and do not want to receive and under what circumstances. A living will addresses the following situations:
- Tube feeding
- Artificial ventilation
- Need for comfort care
3. Power of attorney
A power of attorney designates someone you trust to make health care decisions for you in the event that you are unable to do so. It provides your chosen proxy with a great deal of legal authority. Nevertheless, there are limitations, e.g., a health care proxy cannot make any decisions that go against your living will.
It may be helpful to have a power of attorney for medical decisions in addition to your living will in case a situation arises that the latter does not cover. Nevertheless, the types of advance directives you include in your estate plan are up to you.