When it comes to making decisions for loved ones who are unable to do so later in life, it’s essential to have the right tools to guide the process and uphold their wishes. Advanced directives play a crucial role in ensuring that an individual’s healthcare preferences are respected and followed when they are no longer able to communicate their desires.

Book a date and time with me for your FREE 15 minute Get Acquainted Call.

Advanced directives are legal documents that provide clear instructions on the type of medical care a person wishes to receive, or avoid, in various scenarios. These documents typically include living wills and durable powers of attorney for healthcare. A living will outlines specific treatments a person does or does not want, while a durable power of attorney for healthcare designates a trusted individual to make medical decisions on their behalf.

Having advanced directives in place offers peace of mind to both the individual and their loved ones. It alleviates the emotional burden on family members who might otherwise struggle with making difficult healthcare decisions. Additionally, these directives ensure that the individual’s values and preferences are honored, which can prevent unwanted or unnecessary medical interventions.

In summary, advanced directives are indispensable tools that help safeguard an individual’s healthcare choices, providing clarity and comfort during challenging times.

Kathy Faenzi and her team can assist you in identifying your loved one’s wishes, guide you through the process of establishing them, and introduce you to experienced professionals who can help navigate you through all the various available avenues to successfully fullfil your loved ones wishes.

Definition: An advanced directive is a legal document that specifies an individual’s preferences for medical treatment in situations where they are unable to communicate their decisions. It provides guidance to healthcare providers and loved ones about the person’s wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments, resuscitation, and other medical interventions.

Here are key reasons highlighting their importance:

Types of Advanced Directives:

  • Living Will: Outlines which medical treatments and life-sustaining measures a person wants or does not want, such as mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, and resuscitation.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (Healthcare Proxy): Appoints a trusted person to make medical decisions on behalf of the individual if they become incapacitated.
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order: Specifies that no attempts should be made to revive a person if they stop breathing or their heart stops beating.
  • Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST): A medical order indicating a patient’s preferences regarding treatments commonly used in a medical crisis.

Key Components:

  • Personal Information: Identifies the person creating the directive.
  • Medical Treatments: Specifies which treatments are acceptable or unacceptable.
  • End-of-Life Wishes: Details preferences for palliative care, pain management, and hospice care.
  • Healthcare Agent: Names a person authorized to make healthcare decisions if the individual is unable.
  • Signatures and Witnesses: Legal requirements vary by state, but typically the document must be signed by the individual and witnesses.


  • Autonomy: Ensures that an individual’s medical care preferences are honored even when they cannot communicate.
  • Clarity: Provides clear instructions to healthcare providers and reduces uncertainty for family members during stressful times.
  • Legal Protection: Reduces the likelihood of legal disputes about medical care among family members and healthcare providers.

Creating an Advanced Directive:

  • Reflect on Values and Preferences: Consider what types of medical treatments align with personal values and desired quality of life.
  • Consult with Healthcare Providers: Discuss medical options and implications with doctors to make informed decisions.
  • Choose a Healthcare Agent: Select a trusted individual who understands and respects your wishes to act as your healthcare proxy.
  • Complete the Forms: Fill out the appropriate legal forms, which may be available from healthcare providers, legal advisors, or online.
  • Review and Update: Periodically review and update the directive to reflect any changes in preferences or health status.


  • Awareness and Accessibility: Many people are unaware of advanced directives or do not complete them due to the complexity and emotional difficulty.
  • Legal Variability: Laws and forms differ by state, making it essential to ensure the directive complies with local regulations.
  • Communication: Ensuring that family members, healthcare agents, and providers are aware of and understand the directive.


  • Keep Accessible: Store the original document in a safe but accessible place.
  • Inform Key People: Provide copies to the healthcare agent, family members, and primary care physician.
  • Medical Records: Ensure it is included in medical records at hospitals and with healthcare providers.


Kathy Faenzi PhotoKathy C. Faenzi MA is a Clinical Gerontologist and Senior Care Consultant based in Northern, CA.