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What are the different types of advance directives?

Most people think about their assets and property when the topic of estate planning comes up. However, there are estate planning steps you must take to protect yourself while you are still alive. This is where an advance directive comes in.

According to the American Cancer Society, advance directives come in many forms. In order to make the right decision, you must understand what each type does and how it can benefit you.

Living wills

In the event you are terminally ill or seriously injured and can no longer communicate medical wishes to others, a living will is crucial. These documents spell out exactly the type of care you want at the end of your life, and what type of care you do not want. Most people with living wills specify whether they want life-preserving measures taken. You can also spell out pain management and palliative care preferences in the living will.

Medical power of attorney

In addition to a living will, many people also name a healthcare proxy to act on their behalf when incapacitated. A medical power of attorney is a legal document that provides this authority to the person you choose, who can then communicate your wishes for end-of-life care directly to medical staff and family members.

Do not resuscitate (DNR) orders

DNR orders are often included in living wills. They tell medical staff not to use CPR or defibrillation in the event your heart stops. In most cases, DNR orders only apply when a person is in the hospital. If you want yours to also apply outside of hospital settings, you may need a special bracelet or card to inform emergency medical personnel, who will otherwise use life-saving treatments.

Regardless of what type of advance directive you choose, you should talk to your primary care physician before making any binding decisions. You should also speak with your family and inform them of your wishes, so there are no surprises.