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Advance Care Planning (Advance Medical Directives, Living Wills)

Overview

Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to convey your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time. They provide a way for you to communicate your wishes to family, friends and healthcare professionals, and to avoid confusion later on.

A Living Will tells your healthcare providers and loved ones how you feel about care intended to sustain life. You have the right to accept or refuse life-sustaining medical care. There are many treatments and topics to address including the use of breathing machines, tube feeding, and organ or tissue donation. A Medical Durable Power of Attorney is a document that names your healthcare agent. Your healthcare agent is someone you trust to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so for yourself. A third form of advance directive is a CPR Directive, which indicates your wish to refuse CPR if breathing or heartbeat stops.

Note: This topic was prepared to help consumers find reliable health resources on the web. This site is not responsible for the information on other sites. The information here — and on all websites — is not intended to be a substitute for care given to you by a health professional.

Recommended Reading

The Conversation Project
The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. It may not be easy to talk about how you want the end of your life to be, but it's one of the most important conversations you can have with your loved ones. Information is available in English and several other languages.

Consumer's Tool Kit for Health Care Advance Planning
This link from the American Bar Association website offers a tool kit, which contains a variety of self-help worksheets, suggestions and resources. While the tool kit does not create a formal advance directive for you, it can help you do the much harder job of discovering, clarifying and communicating what is important to you in the face of serious illness.

Five Wishes Document, Aging With Dignity
This link to the Aging With Dignity website explains the Five Wishes document, which is available in English, Spanish and other languages. Five Wishes helps you express how you want to be treated if you are seriously ill and unable to speak for yourself. It looks to all of a person's needs: medical, personal, emotional and spiritual. Five Wishes also encourages discussing your wishes with your family and physician. The website lets you view a copy of Five Wishes, and the document is available for a fee.

Advance Care Planning, CaringInfo
This link from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization website offers a variety of resources, including an Advance Planning Checklist, How to Talk About Your End-of-Life Care Wishes, and What to Do if Family Members Disagree with Your End-of-Life Care Wishes. The website also lets you download advance directive forms for each state.

Advance Directives: Make Your Medical Care Wishes Known
This information on the Mayo Clinic website covers advance directives and discusses various types of medical treatments to consider in your end-of-life care.

U.S. Living Will Registry
This link goes to the U.S. Living Will Registry, which will store many types of advance directives and make them available to healthcare providers 24 hours a day by secure Internet or by fax.

AARP
The AARP website offers a variety of links to resources that deal with legal and financial issues related to death and dying.

Local Resources

Larimer Advance Care Planning Team
The Larimer Advance Care Planning Team provides information and assists individuals in completing their advance care directives, including a Living Will and Medical Durable Power of Attorney. While the ACP staff cannot give legal advice or make decisions for you, they can help you understand your choices and help find answers to any questions you may have.

Colorado Advance Directives Consortium
The Colorado Advance Directives Consortium is a group of professionals in healthcare, senior services, law and ethics dedicated to improving the tools and processes for healthcare decision-making in Colorado. The website has information about advance directives for Colorado as well as Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (MOST) documentation.

Advance Medical Directives
This information from the Colorado Bar Association website explains the various documents available and interpretation of advance medical directives by Colorado law. Also covered are CPR directives and proxy decision-maker for medical treatment.

Aspen Club, UCHealth
University of Colorado Health provides assistance completing a Living Will and Medical Durable Power of Attorney through its Aspen Club offices. The Aspen Club can answer questions, help you complete these forms and assist with notarizing the forms.

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