End-of-life care is a general term that refers to the medical and psychosocial care given in the advanced or terminal stages of illness.
Advance directives are the legal documents, such as the living will, durable power of attorney and health care proxy, which allow people to convey their decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time.
Advance directives provide a way for patients to communicate their wishes to family, friends, and health care professionals and to avoid confusion later on, should they become unable to do so.
Ideally, the process of discussing and writing advance directives should be ongoing, rather than a single event.
Advance directives can be modified as a patient's situation changes. Even after advance directives have been signed, patients can change their minds at any time.
Why are advance directives important?
Complex choices about end-of-life care are difficult even when people are well.
If a person is seriously ill, these decisions can seem overwhelming.
Patients should keep in mind that avoiding these decisions when they are well will only place a heavier burden on them and their loved ones later on.
Communicating wishes about end-of-life care will ensure that people face the end of their lives with dignity and with the same values by which they have lived.
The hour of my death