What is an Advance Directive?

An advance directive is used to tell your doctor and family what kind of medical care you want if you are too sick or hurt to talk or make decisions. If you do not have one, members of your family will have to decide on your care.

You must be at least 19 years of age to set up an advance directive. You must be able to think clearly and make decisions for yourself when you set it up. You do not need a lawyer before you take this important step. Whether or not you have an advance directive, you have the same right to get the care you need.

Types of Advance Directives:

Living Will

A living will is used to write down ahead of time what kind of care you do or do not want if you are too sick to speak for yourself.


A proxy can speak and make medical decisions for you. Inform your proxy ahead of time on how you feel about different kinds of medical treatments.

Power of Attorney

Another way to pick a proxy is to sign a durable power of attorney for health care. The person you pick does not need to be a lawyer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do after I setup an Advance Directive?

Talk to your family and doctor now so they will know and understand your choices. Give a copy of your advance directive to your family and the person who admits you to the hospital.

What Do I Need to Decide?

You will need to decide if you want treatments or machines that will make you live longer even if you will never get better. An example of this is a machine that breathes for you. With an advance directive, you decide what medical care you want.

When do I Talk to my Doctor?

The law says doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes must follow your wishes or send you to a place that will. Before you set up an advance directive, talk to your doctor ahead of time. Find out if your doctor is willing to go along with your wishes, if not, you can make other arrangements.

When should I talk to my family?

Family members do not always want to go along with an advance directive. This often happens when family members do not know about a patient’s wishes ahead of time or if they are not sure about what has been decided. Talking with your family ahead of time can prevent this problem.

What should I do if I change my mind?

You can change your mind any time about what you have written down. Make sure to provide updated copies of your Advanced Directive to everyone and destroy the old copies.

Where can I get more information?

For Help or More Information:
Alabama Commission on Aging: 1-800-243-5463
Choice on Dying: 1-800-989-9455