What are advance directives and why do I need them?

Published 4:19pm Monday, May 7, 2012

Perhaps you’ve heard the term advance directives, but don’t know for certain what that term means, or fully understand why it’s important that virtually everyone, but particularly boomers and seniors, have advance directives.
Simply put, your advance directive is a document that will ensure your wishes are being followed. An advance directive allows you to designate someone to speak for you and to make choices for you in several areas of your life, if for some reason – illness, accident or mental incapacity – you are no longer able to make those choices yourself.
Decisions involving health care – living wills that specify your wishes for heroic efforts to keep you alive such as surgery and life support – financial management of your affairs while you’re incapacitated, and a general power of attorney are examples of types of advance directives. These allow your designee to speak on your behalf in situations where you are not capable of doing so.
The most important aspect of an advance directive or power of attorney, regardless of the type – living will, health or financial – is that you’ve got to have this document in place and have designated this person before whatever the problem may be actually happens. By creating your advance directives, you have the opportunity to stipulate ahead of time who speaks for you. This assures you that your wishes will be precisely carried out if you cannot speak for yourself.

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