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Make a Care Plan

What are advance directives?

“Advance directives” are legal documents that allow you to plan and make your own end-of- life wishes known in the event that you are unable to communicate. Advance directives describe your wishes regarding the medical care and treatments you would like to receive if you are faced with a life-limiting illness.

An advance directive can also name a person to make healthcare decisions for you in case you are unable to speak for yourself. This person is often referred to as a health care agent, or durable power of attorney for health care.

Important things to know:

  •  You have the right to consent to or refuse any medical treatment.
  •  You have the right to appoint an agent to make decisions for you.
  •  You may use an advance directive to share your wishes in advance.
  •  You do not need a lawyer to complete an advance directive.

What do I need to know about end-of-life decisions to prepare my advance directive?

Before beginning the discussion, learn about end-of- life care services available in your community. Become familiar with what each option offers so you can decide which ones meet your loved one or your own, end-of-life care needs and wants.

For example, if you are faced with a serious life-limiting condition, you may not want to prolong your life with life-sustaining treatment. Life-sustaining treatments are specific medical procedures that support the body and keep a person alive when the body is not able to function on its own.

Visit the Palliative and Hospice Care section of this website to learn more about your end-of-life care options.

How can I prepare my advance directive?

Vermont offers short and long versions of an advance directive form to help you with this process. You may fill out all parts of this advance directive form or just portions of it. For example, you can just appoint an agent and sign it along with your witness signatures. If you fill out any Part of this document, you must also fill out Part 5, as it provides signatures and witnesses to validate the Advance Directive.

You may use any advance directive form or format as long as it is properly signed and witnessed.

You can revoke or suspend your advance directive at any time unless you expressly waive your right to do so.

The Vermont Ethics Network is an important and helpful resource for advance care planning.  You find additional information on preparing your advance directive at www.vtethicsnetwork.org.

Updating your Advance Directive

It is very important that the information in your advance directive is always current. Review it once a year or when events in your life change. Consider the “5 D’s” as times when your advance directive might need to be changed or updated. The 5 D’s are: Decade birthday, Diagnosis, Deterioration, Divorce, or Death of somebody close to you or that affects you. All of these events may affect how you think about future health care decisions for yourself.

Whenever necessary, you should also update addresses and contact information for your agent and alternate agent and other people such as potential medical guardians whom you may have identified in your advance directive.

Share your advance directive

Keep your completed advance directive in an easily accessible place and give photocopies to your primary medical power of attorney and your secondary, alternate agent. This document stays in effect unless you cancel it or decide to complete a new one with changes.

Vermont also provides residents an advance directive registry, a secure, on-line data base where individuals can submit copies of their completed advance directive forms to be immediately accessed by health care facilities and providers when they are most needed.

Everyone could benefit from having an Advance Directive — not just those anticipating the end of their lives. Any of us could have an accident or suffer from an unexpected medical condition. Some of us live with a mental or physical illness that leaves us without capacity at times. With an advance directive, those making decisions for you will know what your wishes are. Completing an advance directive is a gift to your family and for yourself.

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