It's not very pleasant to think about our health getting worse as we age. For that matter, it's not pleasant to think about the ever-present danger of accidents and injuries which could change our lives forever. Even so, these are the realities we face, and it is important to consider ahead of time how we will deal with these challenges when (not if) they arrive. One thing we can do is make important personal decisions about health care while we are able to do so, before illness or injury affects our ability to make those decisions. That's why you need an advance directive.
One important choice you can make using an advance directive is who will be your health care representative. A health care representative can receive information about your medical condition and make decisions about your care. If you choose, your representative may even have the power to make end-of-life decisions for you, such as turning off life support or discontinuing tube feeding. For this reason, it is very important to be careful in selecting your health care representative. Keep in mind that as long as you are able to communicate, you will still be making your own decisions. The health care representative only steps in when you are no longer able to express your wishes.
In addition to choosing a representative, an advance directive can also allow you to give instructions to physicians about how to handle your care in certain end-of-life situations. For example, you can specify that no life-support or tube feeding would be used if you were very close to death, or suffering an extremely serious illness. Unfortunately, the form can be very confusing, so it is best to complete this document with the help of an attorney. Your family will certainly rest easier knowing that your decisions are clear and in writing.