An Advance Healthcare Directive is a legal document that gives clear instructions regarding ones medical and personal wishes if one is unable able to make decisions for themselves due to incapacity or illness. Madrona Hospice urges community members to discuss their end of life decisions with loved ones and fill out an Advance Healthcare Directive while in good health, so that decisions are not made in haste or under stress.

When putting together your Advance Healthcare Directive, discuss your wishes with your primary care physician, health care agent, legal counsel, family and friends. Madrona Hospice understands these decisions can be difficult and we are here to help.

Advance Healthcare Directive FAQ

It is a form you fill out advising what you want done in the event of a serious injury or illness and cannot speak for yourself.

An Advance Healthcare Directive accomplishes two things. First, you can name a relative or friend to be your “agent” to make medical decisions if you cannot. Second, you can give instructions about your healthcare.

You can talk with a lawyer if you think it would be helpful, but the forms give clear directions about how to complete them. Your hospice social worker can answer questions about the form and how to complete it.
Completing an Advance Healthcare Directive is a natural part of planning for your future. You can complete it at any time before you become too ill to make your own decisions.
You can name anyone over the age of 18. You cannot name any of your healthcare providers such as your doctor or nurse, or any employee of your healthcare providers, unless they are related to you.

Your agent should be someone you feel comfortable talking with. Your agent should know your values and what is important to you—it should be someone you trust to do what you want and someone who can stand up for what you want. These decisions can be extremely difficult. You should also name a second choice for agent in case your first choice cannot do it.

Your agent will make critical decisions about your health care if you cannot—following any guidelines you have set out. If you do not write specific instructions on the Advance Healthcare Directive form, your agent will make decisions based on their understanding of your wishes and what they think would be best for you under the circumstances.

Whether or not you write specific instructions, talk with your agent, your family, and your hospice team about how you feel about treatment decisions. Make sure everyone involved understands what you want and why you feel the way you do.

Unless you limit what decisions your agent can make, they could decide anything including:

  • Will you be an organ donor?
  • Will there be an autopsy?
  • What kind of funeral/burial arrangements will you have?

It is best to tell your agent how you feel and to write down what you want.

You can cancel the form by telling your agent, your family or your hospice team that you have changed your mind. Destroy any copies of the old form that you can find.

If you want to add or change something, it is better to fill out a new form which will overrule any earlier forms. Be sure to give copies of the new form to anyone who has a copy of the first form.

Unless you specify a shorter time period, your Advance Healthcare Directive is good until you cancel it or write a new one.
When you cannot participate in making decisions about your treatment, someone else has to make them. Making clear plans now insures everyone will know exactly what you want. It also relieves your family, friends and hospice team of the burden of trying to guess what your wishes would be and it avoids potentially hurtful disagreements.

If you have more questions about Advance Healthcare Directives, please ask your Madrona Hospice Social Worker for help.