Advanced Health Care Directive

What is an Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD)?

The Advanced Health Care Directive is a legal document in California that allows an individual to write instructions about health care treatment if the individual is no longer able to express his/her wishes because of incapacity. Under California Probate Code Section 4701, you also have the ability to name someone else to make health care decisions and to instruct caregivers regarding your wishes if you become too ill to make health care decisions. In addition, the document also allows you to express your wishes regarding designation of your organs.

The AHCD is a legal document that takes the place of two previous forms used in California - the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and the Natural Death Act.

Why should a person complete an AHCD?

It is your chance to state your preference on end of life decisions such as intensity of treatment if you are in an irreversible coma or persistent vegetative state.

You will be the person to decide what medical care and services you wish and know they will be carried out.

Your family will understand your wishes thereby reducing potential conflicts between family members on what "mom or dad" would want.

What is the Role of the Ombudsman in the AHCD?

Under California law, a Long-Term Care Ombudsman must witness the signing of an Advanced Health Care Directive if the person resides in a Skilled Nursing Facility. The Ombudsman's role in witnessing the AHCD is to ensure that the nursing home resident's rights are being protected in that they understand what they are signing and are not being coerced into signing the document.

Role of the Agent

The agent is the person you appoint to carry out your wishes. You cannot appoint more than one primary agent. You may however, appoint a first and second alternate if the primary agent is not available. The person you select should be comfortable in carrying out your wishes. He or she cannot be an employee of a long-term care facility.

Do you have to have an Advance Health Care Directive?

A facility cannot require a resident to have an AHCD. If you are told otherwise contact the Ombudsman Program immediately.

Where do I get an Advance Health Care Directive?

Forms are available from a variety of sources - The Ombudsman Program, your HMO, and your personal physician. In addition, your personal attorney can provide the form and will often include it if you are having a will or living trust drawn up.

Who gets copies of your AHCD after you fill it out?

Give copies of the completed form to your agent, alternates, personal physician and the facility where you reside and to family members as you wish. The document will stay in place unless you decide to change it sometime in the future.