Definitions: Caregivers

Healthcare Documents

Power of Attorney for Healthcare (IL)

Also known as Health Care Proxy. This document gives your designated “agent” the ability to make healthcare decisions for your medical care and treatment, including end-of-life directives, if you are physically or mentally incapacitated. It describes your specific wishes regarding life sustaining measures or limitations: intubation, use of feeding tube, dialysis, organ & tissue donation and more. This document also allows your agent to access your medical records and the right to disclose the contents to third parties, including information governed by HIPAA. Each state has its own version of this and other healthcare directive documents.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

This federal law provides the guidelines for who has access to your medical information and to protect that information from unauthorized uses. This information is never provided to employers, or companies involved in marketing or fundraising. Those with access:

  • The patient will always have the right to access their own medical records and information regarding their condition.
  • You, as the primary caregiver, with the patient’s permission, have the right to access, know about and be involved in conversations regarding your loved one’s medical condition, treatments, medications and other issues or restrictions that might impact your ability to care for your loved one. For emergency purposes another family member or trusted friend may be granted access, like the primary caregiver, by the patient.
  • Anyone who is directly involved in your loved one’s care and treatment, and the support organizations that provide services: physicians, nurses, therapists, other medical or healthcare professionals directly involved with the patient, and your insurance company.

Living Will

A written description of your wishes regarding your medical care and treatment, including end-of-life directives.

Advanced Directive

Defines your wishes for medical care and treatment, especially end-of-life directives; includes Power of Attorney for Healthcare (Health Care Proxy) and Living Will.

Financial Power of Attorney

Designates an “agent” to manage your finances if you are physically or mentally incapacitated.

DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) Order

Directive that tells any healthcare professional that you do not want CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or ACLS (advanced cardiac life support) if you stop breathing or your heart stops. It must be signed by a physician and is, usually, not transferrable to another facility.

Out-of-Hospital DNR

A separate order that tells emergency personnel not to perform CRP if your heart has stopped. Not available in every state.

Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

In some states this document allows your DNR order and other healthcare directives to transfer from one facility to another.


Next Step in Care (a program of United Hospital Fund) – Family Caregiver Guide

Family Caregiver Alliance – National Center on Caregiving