If you become unable to direct your own medical care because of illness, an accident, or advanced age, the right legal documents are your lifeline. When you don't write down your wishes about the kinds of medical treatment you do or don't want and name someone you trust to oversee your care, these important matters can be placed in the hands of estranged family members, doctors, or sometimes even judges, who may know very little about what you would prefer.
There are two basic kinds of health care documents that everyone should make. First, you'll need a document naming a trusted person to direct your health care if you are unable to do so yourself. This document is commonly called a power of attorney. In Connecticut, this form is called an appointment of a health care representative.
Second, you can create a document setting out the types of medical treatment you would or would not like to receive in certain situations. This document is often known as a living will. Connecticut calls this form a living will or health care instructions.
If you wish to both name a representative and leave treatment instructions, Connecticut includes all of your wishes in a single form known as your advance directives.
In Connecticut, the person you name to make decisions for you is called your health care representative. Most people name a spouse, partner, relative, or close friend as their health care representative. Under Connecticut law, your health care representative may not be:
If you are a patient or a resident of, or have applied for admission to, a hospital, residential care home, rest home with nursing supervision or chronic and convalescent nursing home, your health care agent and attorney-in-fact for health care decisions may not be:
When choosing your health care representative, the most crucial criteria are trustworthiness and dependability. You might also want to choose someone you think will be good at asserting your health care wishes if others argue against them -- that is, someone who is persistent or calm under pressure.
While you need not name someone who lives in Connecticut, the person you name should at least be willing and able to travel to your bedside if necessary.
Your health care representative will begin to make health care decisions for you when you lack the capacity to do so. For more information, see Nolo's article Living Wills and Powers of Attorney for Health Care: Overview.
You usually don't need a lawyer to prepare documents directing your health care. In fact, state governments have designed these forms for people to complete on their own by filling in the blanks. You can find the health care forms you need for Connecticut in Nolo's Quicken WillMaker Plus software. The software includes detailed instructions for completing your documents and meets all Connecticut legal requirements.