Do you have an advance directive?

Senior couple completing their Advance Directive with the help of a specialist.

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April 16, 2024, marks the annual National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day meant to bring to light the importance of planning for your future healthcare needs; it serves as a reminder to us all the importance of implementing an advance directive.
In the best of circumstances, it is difficult to make healthcare decisions on behalf of another, and it is even more difficult when the person’s healthcare wishes have not been discussed, particularly at end of life. Instituting an advance directive is a vital step in ensuring that a person is in control of their healthcare needs.
Many people don’t have advance care directives because they don’t even know about them or if they do, they don’t completely understand what they’re all about. An advance directive is a legal document that instructs your doctors as to what kind of care and treatment you would like to receive in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself. The advance directive will answer questions such as what kind of care you would want if you become unconscious and who is able to make your healthcare decisions for you if you are unable mentally to do it yourself. It is important to research the laws about advance directives in your own state, as they vary from state to state.
It is important to plan for your future healthcare needs because if you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to speak, then it is important that you are still represented in the decision-making process. You want to be able to make decisions even in your end-of-life care. And please keep in mind that verbal wishes relayed to someone, even a family member, do not suffice; by putting those wishes in a written document, it will ensure that your wishes will be met. It will also relieve any pressure or confusion your family members might have during this difficult time.
There are different ways in which you can implement an advance directive. You can: 
  • Ask your physician if they are able to provide you with an advance directive form
  • Call a lawyer to have papers drawn up on your behalf
  • Go through your state’s Department of State, Health Department, or Department of Elder Affairs
  • Write your directives yourself
  • Use Five Wishes, an advance directive available at 
If you choose to write your directives yourself or go through a computer program, be sure to check with a lawyer to make sure that you are abiding by your state’s laws. 
There are a number of requests you can make regarding your end-of-life care in your advance directive. You can:
  • State whether or not you want to have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order 
  • Indicate who you want to have as your healthcare agent if you are unable to represent yourself
  • If you would like to be placed on life support
  • At what point you would like to be taken off life support
  • The level of comfort you want to be in during treatment
  • How you want to be treated and cared for
  • What information you would like to share with your loved ones
  • Who should be present at your time of death
Finally, it’s important to know that you can change your advance directive as long as you are considered of sound mind and able to think rationally for yourself. Any written changes you make should be signed to make it clear that you have changed your healthcare instructions. And destroy any previous advance directives you’ve instituted to avoid any confusion. Also, be sure to let your physician and family members known of the changes.
For more information about advance care planning or to download a personalized copy of Five Wishes, visit For additional information on advance directives, please visit,, or
This information is for educational purposes. Please consult your physician regarding any medical issues. The Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) is committed to bringing trusted and quality home health, private care and hospice to Indian River County patients. For more information about VNA services, call 772-494-6161 or visit

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