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    Health care directives are part of a larger plan called estate planning. When we grow older, our mental and physical abilities begin to decay over time. This makes it difficult to make decisions for our own affairs. Health care directives allow for a trusted individual to make health care decisions for us when we are too ill to do so ourselves. These directives may include any decisions regarding the use of emergency treatments such as CPR, ventilation, or artificial nutrition. Once you reach this point, health care directives offer a clear outline of your intentions. With a loved one as your agent, you can rest easy knowing your wishes will be followed.

    How Do I File Health Care Directives?

    If a loved one is beginning to grow older or if you want to be prepared for the future, you may need health care directives. To start the process, you should visit your doctor to discuss your health. If you believe your loved one needs a health care directive, suggest they visit their doctor to understand their needs. This discussion will help you grasp the extent of your or your loved one’s health concerns and what you may end up needing in the future.

    You may also want to inform your doctor of your hopes for emergency care. If you or a loved one are unsure about health issues, looking at family history can help. One of the most important decisions to be made in health care directives is how you want to sustain your quality of life after an event. If an event leaves you or a loved one paralyzed, in a coma, or suffering from partial brain death, what would you want to happen to you?

    What Other Documents Might I Need?

    Other documents such as a living will, power of attorney, or other planning documents may prove useful alongside health care directives. These documents can supplement your directives by planning for other situations outside of medical decisions. A living will is a written document that helps you or a loved one tell doctors about treatments you want or don’t want in an emergency, regardless of your state of mind. Power of attorney is a document that names a proxy or agent. A proxy is someone who will make medical or financial decisions for you when you are unable to do so. The proxy should be someone who you trust and who aligns with your values and wishes.

    Other documents that can be requested include Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNRs) or any organ or tissue donation requests. These documents, although not required, may help further clarify your intentions in case of an emergency.