Who Can Decide When You Can’t?

When you’re spending quality time with family, there’s not usually a great time to interject the topic of healthcare directives, but without talking about it, things can get complicated. Have you made your wishes known to those you love? Have you put your plans in writing? If you haven’t, consider setting aside a designated time to let your family know what you’d want if you can’t tell them or the medical professionals helping you.

Injuries, illnesses, and even incapacitation can happen when none of us expect it. No one wants to think about this, so people often avoid completing the paperwork that will speak on their behalf when they can’t. While this is an uncomfortable territory, April 16 is Healthcare Decisions Day, so let’s spread the word!

What is a Healthcare Directive?

A healthcare directive allows you to write down the medical decisions you want or do not want should you become unable to speak for yourself. You can communicate this to your medical providers and loved ones in several ways.

Examples of Healthcare Directives:

  • Power of Attorney for healthcare and/or finance (POA)
  • Living Will
  • Do Not Resuscitate Order/Do Not Intubate Order (DNR)
  • Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
  • Being an organ donor

While the above documents tackle healthcare decisions, the most extensive way to express your wishes regarding medical and financial decisions is through the living will process with an attorney. Once completed, a copy remains on file with them and is shared with your preferred healthcare provider and whomever you choose to act on your behalf.

If you prefer to complete something shorter and more basic without the associated cost, there’s another way. Hospitals and clinics typically have healthcare directives and witnesses available. Going to your medical appointment early or staying after can help you accomplish this process. Once complete, your medical provider can file your healthcare directive in their system for the future. Don’t forget to inform your loved ones that you completed these documents, especially if you’re naming one or more of them as your decision-maker.

What’s even better about completing the documentation at your preferred medical provider’s office is that you’ll complete recognized forms for your specific state. That’s not to say that the paperwork cannot transfer, but it’s advisable to complete it in a new state if you move, just in case.

If you live in assisted living or a memory care community, it’s important to provide them with copies of your directive so they know your wishes. If you have nothing in place, they’re also a great resource to help you find the documents that would best meet your needs.

 Why Establish an Advanced Directive?

Many people think that advanced directives are for older people or for those who are terminally ill. Being conscientious and having a plan in place at any age can help you receive the care you truly want or don’t want should the unthinkable happen.

If you would never be able to regain consciousness or leave a healthcare facility, would you wish to be kept alive by machines? Would you want your organs to be donated to help others in need if you passed away? These are the types of scenarios where healthcare directives help to support your wishes.

If you cannot make decisions without a documented decision-maker, sometimes the matter can go to your local court for a guardianship hearing should you be deemed “incapacitated.” In this event, if the court could not locate a trusted friend or relative to help you make choices, you could incur corporate guardianship fees for their services.

The best way to express your preferences is in writing. If you’d like additional information on completing the forms or processes for your state, click the links below. If these don’t represent your state, search online to find the information for your state.




North Dakota


South Dakota


If you have an advance directive on file with another provider, share a copy with us at Legacy Medical. If you have questions or concerns about your health or want to schedule a medical appointment, contact us at info@legacymedical.com.

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