Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do now to see that my wishes are honored in the future?
While you are competent, you can name someone to make medical treatment decisions for you should you ever be unable to make them for yourself. To be certain that the person you name has the legal right to make those decisions, you must fill out a form called either a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care or Patient Advocate Designation. The person named in the form to make or carry out your decisions about treatment is called a Patient Advocate. You have the right to give your Patient Advocate, your caregivers and your family and friends written or spoken instructions about what medical treatments you want and do not want to receive.
Who can be my patient advocate?
You can choose anyone to be your Patient Advocate as long as the person is at least 18 years old. You can pick a family member or a friend or any other person you trust, but you should make sure that person is willing to serve by signing an acceptance form. It is a good idea to name a second choice, too, just in case the first person is unwilling or unable to act if the time comes.
Where can I get a patient advocate designation form?
Many Illinois hospitals, health maintenance organizations, nursing homes, homes for the aged, hospice and home health care agencies make forms available to people free of charge. Many senior citizens groups, churches and civic groups do, too. You can also get a free form from various members of the state legislature. Many lawyers also prepare Patient Advocate Designations for their clients. The forms are not all alike. You should choose the one which best meets your situation.
Read More How do I sign a patient advocate designation form so that it is valid?
All you have to do is fill in the name of the advocate and sign the form in front of two witnesses. But that is not as simple as it sounds, because under this law, some people cannot be your witnesses.
Your spouse, parents, grandchildren, children, and brothers and sisters, for example, cannot witness your signature. Neither can anyone else who could be your heir or who is named to receive something in your will, or who is an employee of a company that insures your life or health. Finally, the law disqualifies the person you name as your Patient Advocate, your doctors and all employees of the facility or agency providing health care to you from being a witness to your signature. It is easier to make a Patient Advocate Designation before you become a patient or resident of a healthcare facility or agency. Friends or co-workers are often good people to ask to be witnesses, since they see you often and can, if necessary, swear that you acted voluntarily and were of sound mind when you made out the form.
Do I have to give my patient advocate private instructions?
No. A Patient Advocate designation can be used just to name your Patient Advocate, the person you want to make decisions for you. Written instructions are generally helpful to everybody involved. Any other instructions you have you can either write down or just tell your Patient Advocate. Either way, the Patient Advocates job is to follow your instructions.
Do I have to make a decision about my future medical treatment?
No. You do not have to fill out a Patient Advocate Designation, and you do not have to tell anybody your wishes about medical treatment. You will still get the medical treatment you choose now, while you are competent. If you become unable to make decisions, but you have made sure that your family and friends know what you would want, they will be able to follow your wishes. Without instructions from you, your family or friends and caregivers may still be able to agree how to proceed. If they do not, however, a court may have to name a guardian to make decisions for you.
If I make decisions now, can I change my mind later?
Yes. You can give new instructions in writing or orally. You can also change your mind about naming a Patient Advocate at all and cancel a Patient Advocate designation at any time. You should review your Patient Advocate Designation or Living Will at least once a year to make sure it still accurately states how you want to be treated and/or names the person you want to make decisions for you.
What else should I think about?
Treatment decisions are difficult. We encourage you to think about them in advance and discuss them with your family, friends, advisors, and caregivers. You can and should ask any healthcare facility about their treatment policies and procedures to be sure you understand them and how they work. Many facilities and agencies have staff available who can answer your questions. Additional materials may be available from your State Representative or Senator.