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Advance Care Planning

Understanding Advance Care Planning


Having a Plan

When you are young and healthy about all you can do is speak in general terms about your priorities.

When a person develops a chronic condition or illness, they have a clearer idea of what may happen and can be more specific about what they want. When a person has a life-limiting condition, it becomes more important to be detailed about their wishes.

Using Advance Directives

Advance directives allow you to make decisions about your care if you become unable to speak for yourself. It is a process, not an event, and is planning for future care based on beliefs, values, preferences and specific medical issues. An advanced directive is the record of that process.

A living will and health care power of attorney are the two most common forms of advance directives, but other examples are DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), POLST (Portable Medical Orders),healthcare proxy, and DNI (Do Not Intubate order).

These documents allow you to state your choices for health care. You can say “yes” to the treatment you want and “no” to the treatment you do not want.

Q: What is a Living Will?

A: A living will describes your wishes for medical care.

Q: What is a Health Care Power of Attorney?

A: A health care power of attorney names a person who can make medical decisions for you, if you are unable.


How to prepare your Advance Directive

You do not need a lawyer to fill out a living will or health care power of attorney. State hospice organizations, local hospitals, and public health departments provide state-specific forms and instructions. It is important that you use the advance directive for your state. Read the forms carefully and follow all legal requirements. You may need to get the forms notarized and have them signed by a witness.

Keep your advance directives in a place that is easy to find. Give copies to your representative and your secondary agent, if necessary. Discuss your advance directive with your physician and provide a copy for your medical record. An advance directive is in effect unless you cancel it or decide to complete a new one with changes.

For more information on the state-specific forms and documents, check out CaringInfo or Aging With Dignity’s websites.