Living With Heart Failure

Living With Heart Failure: Advance Directives

Advance directives are documents that tell doctors and hospitals what treatment you want or do not want if you become too ill to speak for yourself. You and your family may decide that you only want treatment to make you comfortable. You, your family, and your doctor may also agree on whether you want treatment if your heart or breathing stops.
 
There are two types of advance directives:
 
  • A living will provides directions and instructions
  • A medical power of attorney names a person you trust to speak for you when you are unable to make decisions.
     
Advance directives are easy to prepare. You can do it yourself without a lawyer. The only requirement is that you be at least 18 years old. You may prepare your advance directives by:
 
  • Simply writing down your wishes
  • Completing a form that your doctor, the hospital, or health department may have
  • Using a special computer software program for legal documents
  • Going to a lawyer.
     
Depending on the state where you live, the document may also need to be:
 
  • Witnessed by one or two people
  • Notarized.
     
As long as you are able to make your own decisions, your advance directives will not be used and you can accept or refuse any medical treatment. But if you become seriously ill, you may not be able to make decisions about your own treatment.
 
Give a copy of your living will and power of attorney to a family member and keep another copy in a safe place. People with severe heart failure are in the hospital often. It is important that you or a family member bring a copy of these documents every time you go to the hospital.
 
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