Living Will and Advance Directives
Commonly know as a Living Will, Advance Directives allow you to give instructions about your desired health care in advance of any physical or mental incapacity. They will only be followed if you are unable to convey your wishes regarding medical care decisions. As long as you are able to make your own decisions, you remain the decision maker. You can change or revoke your Advance Directives at any time, as many times as you wish, but they should be established before they are needed and only when you are of sound mind.
Directive to Physician and Family or Surrogates describes your preferences for medical treatment if you are terminally ill with an irreversible condition or near death. With this document, you can give directions to doctors and family members regarding the use of life sustaining procedures. Your written instructions are expected to stand on their own and a copy should be available to your doctor(s), hospital and Medical Power of Attorney designee.
Out of Hospital Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) is a legal document that allows you to direct health care professionals who are working in an out-of-hospital setting (first responders / EMS) to withhold CPR or other life sustaining treatments. It does not allow for withholding treatments considered necessary to provide nutrition, water, or to alleviate pain. In Texas, EMS personnel must always try to resuscitate a patient unless a written DNR order is immediately available to them. Therefore, in certain situations, this document should be kept close at hand.
A Designation of Guardian in Advance of Need allows you to specify who is to be your guardian and, perhaps more importantly, who is not to be your guardian in the event of your incapacity. If you become unable to provide food, clothing or shelter for yourself or can no longer care for your physical health, manage you financial affairs, or your finances become significantly reduced, someone must step in to help - this person would be a guardian. If the need arises and you have not named such a person the court will then assign an attorney ad Litem to represent you and manage your affairs until the court appoints a guardian who may or may not be someone you know or of your choosing. However, just because a person is older or hospitalized does not automatically mean that person is incapacitated. Anyone can file an application with the court requesting that a guardian be appointed for someone who is believed to be incapacitated and legal advice from an attorney is highly recommended. The Texas Guardianship Association has a website with other details at www.texasguardianship.org .