What is an Advance Directive?
An Advance Directive is used to tell your doctor and family what kind of medical care you want if you are too sick or hurt to talk or make decisions. If you do not have one, members of your family will have to decide on your care.
You must be at least 19 years old to set up an Advance Directive. You must be able to think clearly and make decisions for yourself. You do not need a lawyer to set one up but you may want to talk with a lawyer before you do this. Whether or not you have an Advance Directive, you have the same right to get the care you need.
Deciding About Your Health Care
If you are 19 or older, the law says you have the right to decide about your health care. If you are very sick or badly hurt, you may not be able to say what medical care you want or don’t want. If you have an Advance Directive your doctor and family will know what medical care you want or want to refuse.
The law says doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, and home health agencies must do what you want or send you to another place that will do so. Hospice of West Alabama will respect your wishes and your Advance Directives.
It is most important that your family know your wishes. Explain to them why you want the care you have decided on and find out if they are willing to let your wishes be carried out.
Family members do not always want to go along with an Advance Directive. This often happens when they are not informed about a patient’s wishes ahead of time or are not sure of your wishes. Talking to them ahead of time can prevent this problem.
Types of Advance Directives
In the State of Alabama, the choices you have include the following:
- A living will is used to write down ahead of time what care you do or do not want if you are too sick to speak for yourself.
- A proxy can be part of a living will. You can name a proxy to speak for you and make choices you would make if you could. If you pick a proxy, you should talk to that person ahead of time. Be sure your proxy knows how you feel about different kinds of medical treatments.
- Another way to name a “proxy” is to sign a durable power of attorney.
You can choose to have any or all of these three advance directives: living will, proxy and/or durable power of attorney. Our hospice social workers have forms you can fill out if you want to set up any of them. For questions, you may ask your own lawyer or call your local Council on Aging for help.
What You Need to Decide
You will need to decide if you want treatments or machines that will make you live longer even if you will never get well or if you do not want to be resuscitated if your heart stops and you stop breathing, i.e., “Do Not Resuscitate” or “DNR”.
You may also decide if you want food and water through a tube or just to be kept comfortable. Your hospice nurse and physician can help tell you about the pros and cons of these treatments.
Setting Up an Advance Directive
Be sure to sign your name and write the date on any form or paper you fill out. Talk to your family, doctor, and nurse or social worker so they will know and understand your choices. Give them a copy of what you have signed. If you go to the hospital, give a copy of your advance directive to the person who admits you to the hospital.
You Can Change Your Mind at Any Time
As long as you speak for yourself, you can change your mind any time about what you have written down, if you make changes, tear up your old papers and give copies of new forms or changes to anyone who needs to know. Please tell your nurse or social worker about changes.
Making an Alabama Advance Directive for Health Care Legal
The law requires that you sign your document, or direct another to sign it, in the presence of two witnesses, who must be at least 19 years of age.
Your witnesses cannot be:
- your appointed health care proxy,
- related to you by blood, adoption or marriage,
- entitled to any portion of your estate upon your death, either through your will or under the laws of interstate succession,
- directly financially responsible for your medical care, or
- the person who signed your document on your behalf.
These witnesses must also sign the document to show that they personally know you, believe you to be of sound mind, and that they do not fall into any of the categories of people who cannot be witnesses.
Note: You do not need to notarize your Alabama Advance Directive.
Hospice of West Alabama Statement of Limitations
Hospice of West Alabama is not equipped with emergent life sustaining equipment in any patient care setting. If the patient/family choose emergent life sustaining measures Hospice of West Alabama staff will initiate CPR and call 911.
Additional Help or Information on Advance Directives
University of Alabama Elder Law Clinic: 205-348-4960
NHPCO CaringInfo: 800-658-8898