Have you thought about your future health care needs and wants? The best time to think about how you want to be cared for is before you have a serious illness. Sometimes a serious illness or the treatment can make it so you can’t speak for yourself. There are two important documents everyone should have to make sure your plans are known and followed.
The first is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Washington State law lets you pick someone who you know will make good health care decisions for you in the event you can’t make them for yourself. This person (your “health care agent”) can be a family member, close friend, or other community member whom you trust to make decisions based on your wishes. It is important to talk with the person you have in mind and make sure they are willing and able to do this. Remind them that this is about health care choices, not your finances or your belongings. This is the only person who will speak on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself.
The second important document is a Health Care Directive. This is sometimes called a “living will.” This document is where you write down your choices about some kinds of treatment you might or might not want at the end of your life. This can help your family and your doctors know your wishes. The document will only go into effect when you are very, very sick and at the end of life.
Talk to your health care provider and fill out your durable power of attorney and living will documents. These two documents help express your wishes for care and identify who can speak on your behalf.