“Does she have an advance directive?” You’ve probably been asked this when interacting with your loved one’s medical providers. It’s important that you understand the different kinds of health care advance directives.

A Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (DNR) instructs medical professionals (such as hospital and nursing home personnel) not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) when a person’s heart and breathing stop. A DNR covers only CPR; it does not apply to other medical conditions. If your loved one has a DNR it means that if/when her heart stops beating she will die because no one will do anything to resuscitate her.

A Medical Order for Scope of Treatment (MOST) is a medical order a physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner issues. In some states the MOST is known as a POST (Physician Order for Scope of Treatment) or a POLST (Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment). A MOST instructs other health care providers on what to do (or not do) in certain situations. These situations typically include: CPR (thus replacing the DNR), different levels of medical intervention the patient does/does not want, and whether to administer antibiotics, fluids, and nutrition.

The original MOST should be in your loved one’s medical record. You need a copy of the completed form so you’ll know what it says. Ask your loved one’s health care provider for a copy. Be prepared to give that person a certified copy of the Power of Attorney; it’s what will give you access to the MOST.