How palliative care can help with advance directives

It is hard to think about the end of your life. You may not want to fill out forms that make you think about dying. But writing down your health care wishes in a legal document called an advance directive can give you peace of mind. It can also allow you to spend time on more important things as you near the end of life.

There are two main types of advance directives. A power of attorney says who you would want to speak for you if you could not speak for yourself. This person is called your health care agent. A living will asks questions about the kind of treatment you want or do not want. This includes questions like whether you want to be fed through a tube if you can no longer eat on your own.

You may find it easier to fill out these forms with the help of a palliative care provider. He or she can explain everything to you and help you fill out the forms correctly.

If you have not filled out an advance directive, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you get the right forms for your state. You may also find these forms in a doctor's office, hospital, or your state's bar association, health department, or department of aging. Another option is to get free forms from the nonprofit organization Caring Connections at www.caringinfo.org or by calling 1-800-658-8898.

Last Updated: March 4, 2010

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