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Advance Directives and Care Planning

Additional Resources
Download power of attorney and living will forms for Nebraska and Iowa, and access helpful video content.
A medical situation can arise without warning. What would happen if you had a serious accident or illness? How would you make sure your wishes about your medical care are known? Having a completed advance directive is the answer.

Advance directives are written instructions that you prepare to help guide your medical care. An advance directive is only used when you cannot make decisions for yourself. By planning in advance, you can get the medical care you desire while relieving loved ones of making major medical decisions during moments of crisis. Start by thinking about your health care goals and values. Consider what is important to you about your medical care if you become seriously ill. Talk with your family and your doctor. Two of the most common advance directives are:

  • Power of Attorney for health care (designates someone to make medical decisions)
  • Living will (provides instructions about medical care desired/not desired)

Many people think advance directives are only for the elderly. However, unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age. It’s important for everyone to prepare an advance directive.

Have questions? Contact your primary care physician and ask about advance directives.

  • A Power of Attorney for Health Care is one type of Advance Directive. It allows you to name another person to act as your agent and make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. Your agent’s duty is to see that your wishes are followed.

    A Living will is another type of Advance Directive and is a written statement that describes the medical care you want or do not want. It becomes effective only when you are unable to make or communicate your own health care choices.

    A POLST form is a portable medical order form intended for individuals with a serious illness or frailty. The form is completed with a health care provider to document the individual's care preferences regarding the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other medical interventions. The POLST form is applicable across health care settings. The form has different names in different states. It is called POLST (Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) in Nebraska and IPOST (Iowa Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) in Iowa.

    A Power of Attorney for Health Care designates an agent to make health care decisions for you. A Living Will provides specific instructions about treatments desired or not desired. Both documents come into effect at any point in your health care when you are unable to make or communicate your own decisions.

    Completing one or both Advance Directives is your decision. If you only complete one document, generally, we suggest the Power of Attorney for Health Care. Then your Power of Attorney agent can represent you regarding your choices, including decisions that would have been stated in your Living Will. The most important thing is to have conversations with your agent and loved ones so they are aware of your wishes.

    Yes. The signing of these documents must be witnessed by a notary public or two persons who are not relatives or health care providers.

    No. Other legal documents are important, but are not specific to health care decisions. A Last Will and Testament is not the same as a Living Will. A Power of Attorney for financial decisions is not the same as a Power of Attorney for Health Care. Therefore, it is important to write documents specific to your health care choices.

    It is your responsibility to provide copies of your Advance Directive documents to your physician, local hospital, other regular health care providers, and your agent (the person you have chosen to make medical decisions if you have executed a Power of Attorney for Health Care). You should also give copies to close relatives and friends and discuss your choices with them and your agent. Put your original in a safe, but accessible, place.

    Yes. You may change or revoke an Advance Directive at any time through verbal or written communication. It is important to notify family members, health care providers, hospital, or home health agencies if you change or revoke your Advance Directives and provide these individuals with copies of the new documents.

    Most states will honor valid Advance Directives from other states, but you should check if you plan to spend time in another state since there are some exceptions and documents vary by state.

    Yes. Your health care provider will follow your Advance Directives within the limits of the law and hospital policy.

    No. It is entirely up to you. If you do not have an Advance Directive and become unable to make or communicate your own health care decisions, your Next of Kin will make such decisions for you in consultation with your health care provider. Advance Directives, however, give you greater assurance that your wishes will be honored.

    • You can make an appointment to discuss and complete your Advance Directives with your health coach or health care provider at Methodist Physicians Clinic.
    • You may call the Methodist Spiritual Care Department (402) 354-4016 with questions or to make an appointment with one of our chaplains. They are happy to assist you with advance directive forms and notarization.
    • If you are a patient at Methodist Hospital or Methodist Women’s Hospital, please ask your nurse and s/he will contact a chaplain or administrative coordinator to answer your questions, provide necessary forms, and notarize your document(s).

Additional Resources

Nebraska Forms
Iowa Forms
Emmi Video

You can also watch an Emmi Patient Education program on Advance Directives. Emmi Education programs help people understand and get involved in their health care. You will need to sign in to view this free informational video.