Understanding Advance Directives

Advance directives allow you to make decisions about your care in case you ever become unable to speak for yourself. A living will and health care power of attorney are the two most common forms of advance directives.

A living will describes your wishes for medical care. A health care power of attorney names a person who can make medical decisions for you, if you are unable.

These documents allow you to state your choices for health care. You can say “yes” to the treatment you want and “no” to the treatment you do not want.

You should be asked if you have an advance directive:

  • When you enter a Medicare or Medicaid hospital or nursing facility
  • When you receive home health or hospice care from a Medicare or Medicaid provider
  • When you enroll in a Medicare or Medicaid certified HIC/HMO insurance plan

You should give your doctor and your power of attorney (if you have one) a copy of the form. Ask your medical provider for help

For basic questions about advanced directives, download our Understanding Advance Directives flyer. For more information on the state-specific forms and documents, check out CaringInfo, West Virginia Center for End-of-Life, and Aging With Dignity’s websites.

Understanding Behavioral

Health Directives

If you are receiving behavioral health services, there are resources for you to review in addition to normal advance directives. Psychiatric advance directives can plan for the possibility that someone may become unable to give or withhold consent to treatment during acute episodes of psychiatric illness. Each state has different rules about how advance directives must be written and approved. Check with your state's protection and advocacy program, an attorney, paralegal, or advocate to see that you have all the information you need. Remember only attorneys can offer legal advice. 

Click here to download our Behavioral Health Advance Directive flyer. For more information visit The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance website or call the information and current legal news, visit The National Resource Center on Psychiatric Advance Directives.