Are you young and healthy? Are you older and in poor health?

No matter how young or old, sick or healthy you are, you could have a life-threatening accident or a serious illness and be unable to speak for yourself. An advance directive spells out your wishes and establishes who will serve as your agent to carry out these directions.

Writing an advance directive provides peace of mind. You can rest assured that your family and doctors will know and honor your choices and that you have helped guide your loved ones through a difficult decision-making process.

Advance directives are to be done in advance, not when you are in a medical crisis.

An advance directive will not affect your care while you can voice your own decisions. It only comes into play when you can’t.

Jessica Emerson, Director of Admissions, Social Services & Discharge Planning, can help you with completing an Advance Directive. There is no charge for this service. To create an advance directive, call Jessica at (802) 365-3614.

Are my doctor and my agent required to honor my advance directive?Yes. Legally, your doctor and your agent are required to follow your directions as closely as possible. If your doctor disagrees with your decision and cannot carry through, he/she must find another physician who will honor your wishes.

Will my advance directive be honored outside of my home state?

Advance directives are not always valid in other states. Some states will honor out-of-state advance directives, but others require it to conform to their own laws. New Hampshire, for example, requires that advance directives be notarized or witnessed by two people. If you are expecting to be out of state, check directly with the state or contact the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization for state specific information.

How do I let providers know that I have an advance directive?

You are not legally required to do so, but giving copies of an advance directive to your family and your doctor is a good idea. You may also choose to carry a wallet card indicating that you have an advance directive on file. You also can scan and store your advance directive in the Vermont Advance Directives Registry.

What if I change my mind about instructions in my advance directive?

You can change your mind at anytime. Filling out a new advance directive automatically cancels the old one. You may also cancel an advance directive by tearing it up. Be sure to notify everyone who has copies of your advance directive that you are canceling it and creating a new one.

Do I need an attorney to complete an advance directive?

No, you do not need an attorney to complete an advance directive. Grace Cottage does not provide legal advice.

Who can be my agent?

Your agent must be at least 18 years of age or older and should be someone you know and trust. The person you choose should be someone who can make decisions for you, based on your wishes and values. You cannot about your doctor or health care provider to be your agent. If you are in a nursing home or residential care facility, staff or owners cannot be your agent unless they are related to you. You can appoint an alternate agent to make decisions for you if your original agent is unavailable, unwilling, or unable to act for you.

Will my advance directive be honored by EMS?

No. If someone dials 9-1-1, EMS is required to resuscitate you and give you life-prolonging care, unless you have a special out-of-hospital DNR/COLST form or bracelet used in your state. This is not the same as your health care directive.

For more information on advance directives, visit the Vermont Ethics Network. You may also find helpful Myths and Facts About Health Care Directives prepared by the American Bar Association.