There may come a time when you become unable to manage your own health care and a family member or other person close to you is making decisions on your behalf. By planning in advance, you can arrange now for your wishes to be carried out. An advance directive is a set of directions you give about the medical and mental health care you want if you ever lose the ability to make decisions for yourself.
Making an advance directive is your choice. If you become unable to make your own decisions, and you have no advance directive, your doctor or behavioral health provider will consult with someone close to you about your care. We strongly encourage you to discuss your wishes for medical and behavioral health treatment with your family and friends now. This will help to make sure that you get the level of treatment you want if you can no longer tell your doctor or other physical or behavioral health providers what you want.
Delaware has three ways for you to make a formal advance directive. These include living wills, health care power of attorney, and advance instructions for mental health treatment.
In Delaware, a living will is another name for "advance health care directive". Choices are provided for you to express your wishes regarding the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of treatment to keep you alive if you have a terminal medical condition or if you become permanently unconscious, including the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of artificial nutrition, hydration, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and mechanical resuscitation. Medically appropriate care necessary to ensure pain relief will be provided. Space is also available for you to include any additional health care instructions.
A health care power of attorney is a legal document in which you can name one or more people as your health care agents to make medical and behavioral health decisions for you as you become unable to decide for yourself. You can always say what medical or behavioral health treatments you would want and not want. You should choose an adult you trust to be your health care agent. Discuss your wishes with the people you want as your agents before you put them in writing.
Again, it is always helpful to discuss your wishes with your family, friends and your doctor. A health care power of attorney will go into effect when a doctor states in writing that you are not able to make or to communicate your health care choices. If, due to moral or religious beliefs, you do not want a doctor to make this determination, the law provides a process for a non-physician to do it.
An advance instruction for mental health treatment is a legal document that tells doctors and mental health providers what mental health treatments you would want and what treatments you would not want if you later become unable to decide for yourself. It can also be used to nominate a person to serve as guardian if guardianship proceedings are started. Your advance instruction for behavioral health treatment can be a separate document or combined with a health care power of attorney or a general power of attorney. A doctor or behavioral health provider may follow an advance instruction for behavioral health when your doctor or an eligible psychologist determines in writing that you are no longer able to make or communicate behavioral health decisions.
Forms You Can Use to Make an Advance Directive
You can find the advance directive forms on the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services website. The forms meet all the rules for a formal advance directive. For more information, you can also call 1-800-223-9074 or write to:
Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities
Delaware Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC)
Christiana Executive Campus
240 Continental Drive, Suite 101
Newark, DE 19713
Milford State Service Center
18 N. Walnut St., First Floor
Milford, DE 19963
Fax: (302) 422-1346
100 Sunnyside Road
Smyrna, DE 19977
Fax: (302) 223-1301
26351 Patriots Way
Georgetown, DE 19947
Long-Term Care Facility
Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill
100 Sunnyside Road
Smyrna, DE 19977
(302) 223-1000 or 1-800-223-9074
You can change your mind and these documents at any time. We can help you understand or get these documents. They do not change your right to quality health care benefits. The only purpose is to let others know what you want if you cannot speak for yourself. Talk to your Primary Care Provider (PCP) or call Member Services at 1-877-236-1341 (TTY: 711) if you have any questions about advance directives.