Advance directives are documents that spell out what care you want and who you want to guard your preferences, in case you become unable to do so.
Signing advance directives is voluntary, and you can change them anytime by tearing them up, signing a written revocation or replacing them with new forms with different specifications.
Any competent adult who is age 18 or older, has been married, or is a parent can complete and sign advance directive forms.
- A health care proxy form designates one person to make health care decisions on your behalf if you no longer can. Some people use the term “health care proxy” or “health care agent” to refer to whomever you name on the form.
Even without health care proxies, spouses (or next of kin, if unmarried) can make decisions for hospitalized adults who can’t make decisions themselves. However, problems often arise when there is no spouse or more than one child involved.
Appointing a health care agent ahead of time lets you choose who you want to be your voice and to make your health care decisions according to your own wishes or best interests. The New York State Department of Health recommends that everyone older than 18 appoint a health care agent.
- A living will specifies treatments, life-prolonging procedures and other end-of-life care you want (or don’t want). It gives direction to your health care agent/proxy and clinicians.
- The MOLST (Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form is the only New York State-authorized document for resuscitation and intubation instructions that covers a variety of health care settings, including skilled nursing facilities. It addresses your goals for care and a preference for life-sustaining treatments, like cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and translates them into medical orders.
Find free health care proxy and living will forms in the New York State Advance Directive: Planning for Important Healthcare Decisions, a short, downloadable booklet from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.