Health Care Surrogate
This is also known as a Healthcare Power of Attorney. This document allows the person nominated to manage your non-end-of-life health related decisions. The person nominated has no authority to manage any financial or legal issues, only medical decisions, and only if you are no longer able to communicate your wishes. They can advocate that you remain in home (if that’s your wish) and assist with pain management treatment options. They cannot override your wishes if you are still able to communicate your desires, they only get to step in when there’s a problem and you can’t communicate.
**I like to give the example that if you're in a freak roller-skating accident, unconscious, and the doctors need to amputate the third toe on your left foot… That’s the type of decision making issues your Health Care Surrogate may have to make. This should be someone who knows you and can handle emergencies and medical concerns without it adding too much stress.
Living Will / Advanced Directives
This is the document that states what you want to have happen if you are facing an end-of-life situation. This includes whether you want to be on life support and ventilators, artificial nutrition or hydration, and then what to do after you’ve passed away like organ or tissue donation. You do not nominate anyone to do anything in this document, it simply states your wishes should the situation arise.
Do not discount the importance of this document simply because it’s less involved than some of the others though. Those living in Florida in the early to mid 2000’s likely remember the case of Terri Schiavo, a woman who suffered a cardiac arrest at age 26 and then lived in a vegetative state for 15 years. A massive legal battle occurred between her husband and parents, each wanting a different outcome. Had she had a Living Will, that battle may have been avoided. But, who thinks they’ll need a Living Will at age 25?