Advance Directives

What is an Advance Directive?

An Advance Directive is a way for you to say what you want done or not done if you become very sick or are in an accident, and you can’t make decisions about your health care.

Why should you write down what you want?

A serious illness or accident is a scary time for anyone. Important decisions may need to be made quickly and it may be hard for those who know love you to remember what you said concerning your preferred treatment and care. Writing down what you want and who you want to speak on your behalf is the best way to help the doctors know your wishes when you are too sick to talk. It is important that you do this so it is legal and can be used in making medical decisions.

How can you decide today what you want if you don’t know what is going to happen in the future?

An Advance Directive doesn’t try to answer every question. But, it will have questions to answer that will help those who have to make your decisions know some of your thoughts and ideas about life and death.

Why make out an Advance Directive now?

Why not wait until you are older or become sick?
The best time to talk with the people you love about what you want and to write things down is when you are feeling good and can think clearly. If you wait, it may be too late.

Do you need to hire a lawyer to make out the form?

You do not need a lawyer to make an Advance Directive. Many people will ask their lawyer to help them with this when they are making a Will or other legal papers, but it is not necessary. All hospitals and nursing homes will have forms to use and may have people that can help fill out the form for free. To be legal in the state of Iowa, an Advance Directive must be notarized or witnessed by two (at least one non-related) persons who are not named on the front of the form or a part of the health care team providing care.

You made out an Advance Directive and had it notarized or witnessed. Now, what will you do with it?

You need to make sure that everybody knows what you want. Copies will be needed for hospital records, your doctors and anyone you want to make decisions for you when you cannot.

I think I may want to fill out an Advance Directive. What should I do now?

At the Hospital: If you are a patient in the hospital, tell your nurse or case manager. They will find someone to talk with you about Advance Directives, answer your questions, help you fill out a form if you want to and make copies. Your family members can also make out their own Advance Directives at the same time. And, the help is always free!

Not at the Hospital: Even if you’re not in the hospital, you can ask for help with Advance Directives. Talk to your healthcare provider at your next visit.