Like many people in California, you may have heard or read about an advance directive but you may not fully understand what it is or what it can do for you or for your family. 

As explained by the American Cancer Society, there are actually many types of documents that may be referred to as advance directives. Each one has a specific purpose and understanding them may help you determine which one or ones you want. 

Identifying a medical proxy

You may wish to have another person make medical decisions on your behalf or communicate with a medical team if you are unable to do so. This may be done by creating a medical power of attorney, also called a durable power of attorney for health care. 

Identifying your treatment preferences

You may not prefer to undergo certain types of treatment in select situations. You may utilize a few different documents to indicate your choices here. A living will gives you the ability to indicate that you do not want to be on a ventilator, undergo dialysis, use a feeding tube or receive fluids while in a hospital or other care facility. 

Emergency personnel may not be bound by the terms of a living will but may be bound by the terms of a Physician’s Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. Via the POLST, you may indicate what emergency treatment you wish to forgo. 

This information is not intended to provide legal advice but is instead meant to give residents in California an overview of the different types of advance directive documents that exist and what each one does for them.