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Howard County Stories

Local medical practices bring advance care planning to patients

We know advance care planning is very important – but it can be difficult for everyone to talk about a time when they would be unable to decide their own health care. Data shows that both locally and national...

Asking about advance directives? A routine question at Columbia Medical Practice

At Columbia Medical Practice, every Medicare patient’s annual wellness exam includes questions about diet, physical activity, general health concerns – and whether the patient has an advance directive. The ...

Parishioners and Priests Planning for Future Care

At St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, hundreds of parishioners are starting conversations about their future care wishes. Priests have discussed advance care planning from the pulpit, volunteers hav...

Advance Directive / Living Will

What's a Living Will?

A living will is a type of advance directive where you list the details of the specific type of care you want if you are in an end-of-life stage (for example, you are in a coma and the doctors do not expect that you will wake up). Living wills address questions such as if you would like machines to help you breathe, or if you would like pain management. Download a copy of an advance directive (including a living will) here. Once you complete it, upload it to our Name Your Agent page to make sure your doctors can access it.

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Conversation Guides

These tools help you think through how to talk about your preferences for care with your loved ones, health care agent and doctor. For more tools and to find the guides in additional languages, visit The Conversation Project.

Choose Health Care Agent

A Starter Kit to help choose your health care agent, the person you choose to make medical decisions if you can’t.<!-- AddThis Advanced Settings generic via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons generic via filter on get_the_excerpt -->

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Talk to Your Doctor

How to talk about your preferences for care with your doctor, nurse, or other health care provider.<!-- AddThis Advanced Settings generic via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons generic via filter on get_the_excerpt -->

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Alzheimer’s Disease

A Starter Kit to help loved ones of people with Alzheimer&#8217;s disease who want help sharing their preferences for care.<!-- AddThis Advanced Settings generic via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons generic via filter on get_the_excerpt -->

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Should I take these steps?

It is true that in the state of Maryland your spouse will be your default health care agent. But you should still have a conversation about your care wishes and officially name your agent and select an alternate agent. Talking with loved ones about your wishes will help lessen conflicts about the care decisions your spouse is making because everyone will be aware of your wishes. There may also be situations where your spouse is also unable to communicate (for example, if you were both involved in the same trauma or accident). Having named your health care agent (and your alternate proxies) will help ensure your care decisions are known and followed.

None of us wants to be ill or have to consider a time when we will be unable to communicate our health care decisions. But even healthy individuals can experience a sudden trauma or illness at any time and at any age. Having conversations with loved ones and naming a health care agent will ensure your decisions are known and your loved ones feel comfortable carrying out your wishes.

Naming a health care agent

No. Your agent can be any person you trust to make your care decisions when you are unable to communicate. This can be a family member, friend, or anyone you want to pick. You should choose someone you believe will be able to follow your care decisions. Make sure you have a conversation with this person so they are aware of your wishes and you are confident they feel ready to carry out your wishes.

You can choose from two options when naming your agent. You can select to have your agent immediately make decisions about your care, or you can select to have your agent make decisions only after a doctor has determined you cannot communicate for yourself.

You do not need a lawyer to name an agent. You can legally appoint your agent through our secure Howard County website from your own computer or mobile device. Visit the Name Your Agent page to complete this step.

Your chosen agent should be someone who knows the care you want to receive if you are unable to communicate for yourself. You should carefully consider if the person you would like to choose as an agent will be able to follow your care decisions. If not, you may want to consider choosing a different loved one or friend to serve as your agent. You should also talk with the person you initially wanted to name as your agent so they are aware of who you ultimately chose and why you have made that decision.

Other Considerations

We recommend that you name your agent electronically so this information is available to doctors across Maryland. If you keep the document at home it may not be retrievable in an emergency and your doctors may not know who to contact to discuss your care. If you do decide to print your form, you should store it by your bedside, behind your bedroom door or on your refrigerator so emergency personnel can find it easily. You can find a printable copy of the health care agent form on our Name Your Agent page.

Cultural, religious, spiritual and personal beliefs play an important role when considering end-of-life care. Discussing these values when talking with your loved ones will help guide your agent in better carrying out your care wishes. Talking with your spiritual leader can also help you consider the different types of care you will/will not want in future.

Take me right to:

Talk to loved ones about my preferences for care

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Name my health care agent

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Get in-person help at an event

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Reach out with questions

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