A Guide to Advance Care Planning
Advance care planning is a process where you reflect upon and plan for the healthcare you would want if you are unable to make decisions or speak for yourself. You should talk about your goals and wishes with loved ones and put them in writing.
Advance care planning isn't just for those who are sick or dying. It is important that you plan for your care early so that your wishes can be honored if you are in an accident, undergo surgery, or get a serious illness. Don't wait! Making your wishes known helps your loved ones and healthcare providers know and honor your goals and wishes if you are unable to speak for yourself.
Our guide gives you 3 steps to advance care planning. Keep in mind that this is a process and should be revisited as your goals, wishes, and health status change throughout your life.
It's as simple as 1, 2, 3...
DECIDE what kind of care you would want if you cannot speak for yourself.
Ask yourself questions like:
What makes life worth living?
What would I consider a good (or bad) death?
Who would I trust to speak for me?
There are several guides available online to help you reflect upon your wishes and preferences.
DISCUSS your wishes with loved ones and healthcare providers.
After reflecting on some of your own wishes, spark some conversation with the important people in your life.
Make sure to include the person(s) who you may want to speak for you if you cannot. Ask them if they would be willing and able to do this for you. You want to pick people that you will trust to honor your wishes. These individuals do not have to be your next of kin.
Be sure to discuss your wishes with your healthcare provider. If you have a serious illness or are planning to undergo surgery, they can help to put your wishes in context. Once you document your wishes, make sure your healthcare provider has a copy of your most current documents on file!
DOCUMENT your wishes in the form of advance directives.
Advance directives are legal documents that record your wishes in writing and help ensure your wishes are known and honored.
"Health Care Power of Attorney": a document that let you name your "Health Care Agent": the individual(s) you would like to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself
"Living Will": a document that describes your preferences for medical treatment and life support
Remember, advance care planning is an ongoing process. Your wishes may change and that's okay!
Re-visit your documents on a regular basis and make any changes necessary to ensure they are up to date with your wishes.
Try associating a date with reviewing your documents, such as your birthday, annual physical, or April 16th (National Healthcare Decisions Day).
Keep your loved ones and healthcare providers informed any time your wishes change so they can help honor your wishes!