Planning for the future should be done now, before a crisis or serious illness diagnosis occurs. Every day, people of all ages and their families suffer needlessly because discussions haven’t taken place, wishes go unknown and documents haven’t been created indicating choices family members are often left unprepared to make.
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An advance directive is a set of directions you give about the medical and mental health care you want if you ever lose the ability to make decisions for yourself. North Carolina has four ways for you to make a formal advance directive. These include: living wills, MOST form, health care powers of attorney and advance instructions for mental health treatment.
In North Carolina, a living will is a legal document that tells others that you want to die a natural death if you: become incurably sick with an irreversible condition that will result in your death within a short period of time; are unconscious and your doctor determines that it is highly unlikely you will regain consciousness or have advanced dementia or a similar condition which results in a substantial cognitive loss and it is highly unlikely the condition can be reversed. In a living will, you can direct your doctor not to use certain life-prolonging treatments such as breathing assistance (respirator or ventilator), or to stop giving you food and water through an IV or feeding tube.
A MOST (Medical Order for Scope of Treatment) is a medical order that can be followed in different settings such as in the home, nursing home, hospital, etc. A MOST form contains specific instructions for CPR and also addresses other end-of life treatments that you may or may not want to receive. While a MOST form is a medical order that must be signed by your provider, it also must be signed by you or if you are not able to make or communicate your health care decisions, by someone who is legally recognized to speak for you.
A Healthcare power of attorney is a legal document in which you can name a person(s) as your health care agent(s) to make medical and mental health decisions for you if you become unable to decide for yourself. A Healthcare power of attorney will go into effect when a physician states in writing that you are not able to make or to communicate your health care choices.
An advance instruction for mental health treatment is a legal document that tells physicians and mental health providers what mental health treatments you would want and what treatments you would not want, if you later become unable to decide for yourself. This document can be a stand-alone document or combined with a health care power of attorney.