Advance Care Planning

Preparing for Future Medical Care

Advance care planning is talking with loved ones about what your health care choices would be if you are unable to speak for yourself. Advance care planning takes the burden off of family, friends and clinicians because it makes them aware of your wishes. It is a gift you give to your loved ones and yourself.

More than one out of four older Americans face questions about medical treatment near the end of life but are not capable of making those decisions.1 It’s never too soon to think about the choices that may need to be made about your end-of-life care, and putting your preferences down in writing. In fact, all adults age 18 and older should have an advance care planning conversation with loved ones and put their wishes down in writing through a health care directive.

Putting Your Wishes in Writing with a Health Care Directive

A health care directive (sometimes called an advance directive) is a legal document that goes into effect only if you are unable to communicate your health care wishes due to illness or injury. A health care directive allows you to select a decision maker—called a health care agent—who will make decisions regarding your care and informs others about your wishes for medical treatment.

Sometimes, end of life decisions need to be made about emergency treatments to keep you alive. These types of decisions may center around:

  • CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
  • Ventilator use
  • Artificial nutrition (tube feeding) or artificial hydration (intravenous fluids)
  • Specialized and compassionate care

A health care directive gives you the opportunity to state which of these types of emergency treatments you would or would not want performed to keep you alive, and the conditions under which your choices apply. It also allows you to state your wishes regarding other treatment options.

A health care directive gives you the option to:

  • Appoint your health care agent and/or
  • State your preferences for your health care

Getting Started

It is not necessary to have an attorney provide or fill out the form. In fact, it is not necessary to use a pre-printed form at all. Any written statement can serve as a health care directive as long as it meets certain legal requirements.

If you’d like to use a form as a guide, you can download a health care directive here.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services