As a middle-aged and healthy individual living in Pennsylvania, you may take for granted that, when it comes time to make decisions regarding the future of your health, you will be able to do so on your own. Yet, it is a genuine possibility that one day, you will become incapacitated and that someone will need to step up and make those decisions on your behalf. To make sure medical personnel honor your wishes and beliefs, you should discuss both with your loved ones long before the need for decision-making arrives. It would help if you also documented your requests through an advance care directive. 

According to UnitedHealthCare, an advance directive is a legally binding document through which you can detail your precise wishes if you are unable to communicate them yourself. You may have more than one advance directive, so long as they each corroborate what the others say. The three most common types of advance directives include a medical power of attorney, a living will and Five Wishes. 

A medical POA is a tool that lets you to appoint an individual, or agent, whom you trust to represent your goals of care and wishes regarding medical care should you become unable to do so yourself. The agent may only speak if you cannot, and the document only goes into effect once a physician declares you unable to make decisions for yourself. 

A living will — also called a medical directive — details which medical procedures you feel comfortable undergoing and which you wish to forego. Like a medical POA, it goes into effect only once a doctor declares you mentally incapacitated. Your power of attorney may turn to your medical directive if you, say, require life support or CPR. 

The Five Wishes is a tool that meets the legal requirements in 42 states but that is legally valid in all 50. This document addresses your spiritual, personal and emotional needs, as well as your medical wishes. Wish one of the document appoints the person whom you would like to make medical wishes on your behalf. Wishes two through five detail the type of medical care with which you are comfortable and which you wish to forego; how comfortable you want to be; how you want people to treat you; and what information you want your loved ones to know. 

This article is for educational purposes only. You should not use it as legal advice.