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Making your wishes known

111Durable power of attorney for health care decisions: This is the person you appoint to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so. It is not the same as a power of attorney for finance.

Appoint one person and an alternate. You can have more than one alternate, in a designated order.

Consider who might be the best person to speak for you during times you are unable to speak for yourself and talk to that person about your wishes. Make sure this person knows you and how you would make decisions and this person would be an advocate for you and ask questions.

Make sure the person you appoint agrees to be appointed.

This comes into effect only when you are unable to speak for yourself (example: sedated/anesthesia before or after surgery, unconscious after an accident, illness, confusion). Whenever you are awake, alert, oriented, you will and must make all decisions.

Health care directive (living will): This lists medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you want and don't want in the event you are declared terminally ill by two physicians.

Reflect on your own personal experiences, values, desires and preferences. Some people say even if their condition is irreversible, they want aggressive/maximum intervention -- "do everything." Some people say aggressive intervention is fine, but only for reversible conditions. If they were not getting better with a particular intervention, they would not want to continue it. Some people feel strongly they do not want any form of artificial life support under any circumstances. Advance directives can address interventions such as ventilators, tracheostomy, feeding tubes, antibiotics, dialysis, hospice and organ donations.

Advance directives are signed in the presence of a notary or signed by two witnesses, and there are stipulations as to who can witness. You must be awake, alert and orientated to complete an advance directive. No one can complete them for you. A new advance directive makes any previous forms null and void. Keep the originals in a safe place where they can easily be accessed in a hurry, ideally not a safe deposit box, as those are not easily accessed. Give copies to your durable power of attorney for health care, your family, your doctor and your health care facility.

HaysMed can scan your advance directives so they will be available in your medical record. You also can have your advance directives stored online at www.medicalert.org or uslivingwillregistry.com.

Share your preferences with your family, friends, health care providers, clergy or attorneys, and review your advance directives on a regular basis to see if they still reflect your wishes.

Advance directives are not just for older adults. Unexpected crisis can happen at any age, so it's important for all adults to have advance directives.

Advance directive forms for every state with directions on how to complete can be found at www.caringinfo.org. HaysMed also has the forms available.

Sue Noll is supervisor of Hospice at HaysMed and a contributor to The Hays Daily News Generations advisory group.