Both of these documents are important for older adults to have. They help guide doctors and family members about making medical decisions should the person no longer be able to do so individually. These are important for making sure the care receiver’s will is carried out. However, what is the difference between them?

Living wills provide direction to loved ones and physicians about preferences for end-of-life care. It can also provide guidance in situations where one is incapacitated and cannot make conscious decisions anymore. This does not appoint anyone to make decisions on anyone’s behalf. It just lays out possible scenarios and how one would like those scenarios handled.

Durable power of attorney for healthcare, on the other hand, does appoint a specific person to be responsible for medical decisions in the event one can no longer do it themselves. Like a living will, a durable power of attorney can provide guidelines and preferences for that person to follow when it comes time to make decisions.

Neither of these two forms empower anyone to make financial decisions. That is a separate form called a durable power of attorney for finances.

It may be uncomfortable, but older adults should be having conversations about drafting a living will or appointing someone as a medical power of attorney. It can help save headache and heartache down the line.

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