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What are long term care planning advance directives?

You have probably already thought about the way in which you would like your medical care to proceed as you age. What happens when you are incapacitated and can no longer make medical decisions for yourself? Smart New York residents know that no matter how much their family loves them, relatives do not always know what the individual would prefer for health care options. That is why long term care planning documents such as advance directives are useful in a variety of settings.

Advance directives are legal documents that allow an individual to express his or her preferences whereas their medical care is concerned. These directives are crafted before a medical care situation arises -- that way, a patient's family members or friends are able to make medical decisions in an emergency without wondering what that person would want. Two types of advance directives exist: health care power of attorney and the living will.

Health care power of attorney is also known as a "health care proxy." This legal document permits individuals to appoint someone to make medical decisions for them if they are incapacitated. The health care proxy does not specify actions that are to be taken by medical personnel; rather, it simply identifies the person who will be responsible for making those decisions.

Living wills, however, contain explicit directions for care if the patient becomes incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate preferences for medical care. This document, also known as a medical directive, is designed to provide guidance for both family members and physicians at the end of life. Living wills are common among those of advanced age and those suffering from terminal conditions.

Advance directives help take some of the guesswork out of medical decision-making when you become incapacitated. Your family deserves to know exactly how you would like to be treated by health care staff. By filling out a few simple legal forms, you can ensure that physicians and family members follow your wishes after a severe medical event.

Source: FindLaw, "What are Advance Directives?" Aug. 12, 2014

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