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Advanced directives are a group of documents that include a Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Health, and a Last Will and Testament. We all want to maintain independence and control over our affairs including health care. These documents are a key element in maintaining that control if you are unable to speak for yourself. Advanced directives allow you to express your health care wishes and choices if you are too sick to make them yourself. Advanced directives spell out how you want to be treated if you are seriously ill. Without advanced directives, the choice of who makes your health care decision is determined by the law and is out of your control. Advanced directives are a gift to your family and friends. They will know what you want if you are unable to speak and/or at the end of your life.

There are standard forms for the healthcare advanced directive that can be obtained from the internet, the hospital, your primary care provider or the Attorney General. These are generic forms and can be completed easily. They may not provide some of the specific individualization you may want. A family attorney can draft these document for you at a reasonable cost if you need to individualize your wishes. Most people complete these forms without and attorney. There is no single form to use to document wishes but for California there are certain provisions that must be included. The links below lead you to documents that meet the California legal advanced directive requirements.

Prepare for Your Care
is an organization that has created an online video based program to help you complete these documents and gives you suggestions on how to talk with your health care provider about your wishes.

Aging with Dignity Organization
is a national organization whose mission is to affirm and safeguard quality of care especially at the end of life. They produce and offer a document entitled “Five Wishes” which can serve as an Advanced Directive.

UCSF Medical Center
offers the Advance health Care Directive Kit

California State Bar
offers a publication “Seniors and the Law: A guide for Maturing Californians” which covers multiple legal rights and issues ranging from advanced directives to your right to have a pet. Obtain a copy at www.calbar.ca.gov

State of California
offers the Advanced Health Care Directive Form in a pdf. Google Advanced Health Care Directive California

State of California
offers an excellent End of Life Care Planning website with lots of good information ranging from advanced directives to hospice care information.

State of California
offers an Advanced Health Care Directive Registry to register your advanced directive if you wish.

On these forms there is a section to designate a health care agent – a person who knows and will follow your wishes. This person can be a family member or friend. If you do not have anyone to appoint, it is OK you can complete the advanced directive without doing so. If you have someone you would like to appoint, discuss with this person what your wishes are. Are there specific treatments you do or do not want? Feeding tubes? Ventilators? If you are dying where do you want to be? Discuss with your entire family what you want to avoid conflicts between family members.

Once you complete forms give one to your health care agent, one to your primary care provider and keep one. Let family and neighbors know where it is located. Consider put a copy in an envelope that is clearly marked and readily visible in your home so if an ambulance is called EMS may pick it up to take to the hospital with you.