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3 health care documents to consider when planning for incapacity

It starts as a blurry image, but as we rack up the birthdays, the picture becomes much clearer. We will catch the "OLD" disease. Our bodies start failing. Our mind slips. Simply put: a time in which we won't be able to make medical decisions for ourselves becomes more likely.

It's time to prepare for the possibility. How do you plan for the unexpected? What options do you have when creating a plan for your future health care?

Planning for incapacity is not a one-size-fits-all strategy

If the years have taught us anything, it's that no two people are alike. We have our different opinions, wishes and wants. Your plan can - and should be - as unique as you.

But let's start with the basics. First, you need a general understanding of the tools you have at your disposal. The three basic tools are:

  • A living will: In this document, you include direction for health care providers regarding the type of care you want or don't want under specific circumstances.
  • A health care surrogate designation: This is a document that goes a bit further than your living will, giving someone else the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. You can include specific directions they must follow as you would in a living will.
  • An anatomical donation: This is a document that designates whether you want your organs donated for transplant or medical research.

How do you make this plan unique? It's in the details.

Maybe you are detail-oriented person. You know that one single factor could alter how you want to be treated.

For instance, you might want doctors to take extraordinary measures to save your life after a car accident. Now, let's say that you suffered a traumatic head injury that would take away your memories, your ability to reason or other factors that make you who you are. Would you feel the same way?

You can provide direction for myriad situations.

You also don't have to get detailed. Maybe you get bogged down in the details. Maybe you just don't want to answer those questions. Maybe you trust someone so much, that you are comfortable putting the decisions regarding your care in their hands. You could make designate a health care surrogate and stop there.

The point: it's time to get going on your plan.

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