Take a look at this picture. It shows a place for important documents, all safely tucked away, and in the hopes you won’t need them for decades. These signed documents should be adorned with a big red bow. Because they are the greatest gift you can give to your loved ones, if you can’t speak for yourself, and they have to.
This is a tough subject but not that complicated. An advanced directive is simply a catchall term used to describe documents necessary for your wishes to be carried out, in the event you are unable to make medical decisions. These documents include a living will (also called a directive to physicians), medical power of attorney, and if someone is quite elderly or terminally ill, might include an out of hospital DNR (do not resuscitate). Be sure to include a HIPPA release form which allows your medical information to be shared with your medical power of attorney.
I am sharing a link that has very comprehensive information about advanced directives, including links to download them at no cost, and specific to your state. Just about every question you might have is laid out very helpfully. This link comes from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. http://www.caringinfo.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3289
Enormous thanks to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization for compiling and sharing this important information.