Like most of us, you want to be in charge of your own medical care. Right now, you can express yourself to your doctors and participate in decision making about your care. For example, you can choose if you want to take a medication that carries potentially serious side effects.

You have the power to do this now, while you are still mentally competent and in good health. But if you are ever in a major accident, or if you are affected by an illness like Alzheimer’s disease, there may come a time when you are no longer able to make decisions about your care or speak for yourself. Fortunately, you can take action now to ensure that your healthcare providers will always honor your preferences, no matter what happens.

How advance health care directives work in North Carolina

Specifically, you can include an advance health care directive as part of your estate plan. This is a document that goes into effect if you ever become mentally incompetent or unable to communicate. It can contain your stated preferences about the extent of medical intervention you would receive during a medical emergency. For example, you can state whether you would want to be put on a ventilator or other life support machines to extend your life.

You can also decide if you would like to receive artificial feeding and hydration if you become unable to eat or drink for yourself, and at what point you would prioritize palliative care, if ever. Palliative care focuses on keeping the patient as comfortable as possible instead of trying to keep them alive.

Because these can be literally life-and-death decisions, you should not take this process lightly. Your attorney will go over your advance medical directive with you, and explain how it fits in with your power of attorney and other estate planning tools.