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Advance Directives

Advance directives are a patient's instructions and wishes about future medical care in case he or she can no longer speak for himself or herself. Ideally, an advance directive should be in place before a person becomes ill or before a crisis.

If your loved one doesn't have an advance directive, you should choose a practical time and place to have this conversation with him or her. Let your ill relative set the conversation's pace. Use good listening skills, but expect some initial resistance. Whatever your loved ones wishes are, acknowledge and sustain them, even if you don't agree.

An advance directive is normally made up of one or two legal documents: a living will and/or a medical power of attorney. You can obtain an advance directive from your healthcare provider or you can download a copy from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Each type of advance directive is regulated differently by state. For this reason, you may wish to consult with an attorney when preparing an advance directive.

Living Wills

A living will outlines a person's wishes about medical treatment if he or she is unable to communicate at the end of life. State law defines when a living will can go into effect and may limit treatments to which the living will applies. A person always, though, has the right to refuse treatment.

Medical Power of Attorney

Sometimes called a health care proxy, or appointment of a health care agent, a medical power of attorney allows a person to appoint someone they trust to make decisions about their medical care. In many states, the person appointed may speak for a patient at any time he or she is unable to make decisions, not just at the end of life.

Financial Matters

Studies have shown that the costs of end-of-life care can be considerable. Financial stress at this time is common, and financial issues are important. Families deal with terminal illness and finance concerns in different ways. It's important to not feel guilty because you have concerns.

Although no single resource exists to completely address a family's financial concerns, an information specialist (800-955-4572) from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society can provide information and referrals to help you.

last updated on Wednesday, March 16, 2011
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