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Advance Directives

Planning for Your Care

Planning for medical care can be difficult. But it can provide peace of mind for you and your family should you ever become unable to make decisions for yourself. An advance directive for health care allows you to express your wishes for health care in advance in case something should ever happen to you. Talking with your family and health care providers can help you create a plan that works with your goals, values and wishes. Having an advance directive can lessen the burden for your family during an emergency and ensure your wishes are respected.

When should I create an advance directive for health care?

You are never too young or healthy to talk about your wishes and write them down.  The best time to make health care decisions is when you can consider your options carefully.

How do I get started creating my advance directive?

Decisions about medical care are difficult and personal. You should think about your personal goals and the quality of life you want. Talk with your family and health care providers to make sure that your plan is in line with your goals, values and wishes.

How do I communicate my wishes?

Each state has different methods. In Tennessee, there are multiple ways to communicate your wishes.

  • An advance directive for healthcare. There are 2 parts to this form:
    • The first section allows you to choose a healthcare agent to speak for you about your health care if you are unable to do so yourself. If you choose an agent, make sure your agent knows. You can fill out just this section if you all you want to do is appoint a health care agent.
    • The second section is similar to a living will. It allows you to write down your specific wishes for the kind of care you would want or not want if you couldn’t express your wishes yourself. If you complete this section, share it with your family and friends, your health care agent (if you have one) and your health care providers.
  • Medical power of attorney. You can appoint someone to make health care decisions. This can apply to both when you are able to make decisions for yourself and when you cannot.  A medical power of attorney must be completed by a lawyer.
  • A living will. You can document your wishes for treatment as you approach end of life. This legal document is usually completed by a legal expert.

Who should have a copy of my advance directive for health care?

Give a copy of your plan to:

  • your health care providers
  • your power of attorney or health care agent
  • your family and caregivers

How do I get my advance directive for healthcare to my doctor or other provider?

You can do this in 2 ways:

  • Bring a copy of your advance directive with you to your next visit. Your healthcare provider will scan the document into your medical record.
  • Or use the advance directives tool in My Health at Vanderbilt to create your directive and share with your Vanderbilt healthcare provider.

Can I change my advance directive for health care?

Yes, you can change your advance directive at any time. You should review your plan often. Tell your health care providers, agent and family when you do make changes or if you want to make a change.