What is Advance Care Planning?
We like to think that we will always be healthy, independent and able to make decisions for ourselves; however things can change suddenly. We might have an
accident or a serious illness and no longer be able to speak for ourselves. When that happens, doctors often turn to our loved ones to speak for us. If your loved ones were asked, would will they know what care you would want?
Talking with your physicians and loved ones now will help you plan for future medical needs, and is the best way to ensure that your medical wishes will be respected. Once you start talking, don’t feel that you need to get everything done at once; it helps to see this as a process. Even after you have made your wishes known, these wishes may change over time. Once you’ve started, it will be easier to talk about changes or related issues in the future.
Keep in mind that other family members and loved ones need to understand your wishes. Depending on how close they may be geographically or
emotionally, this can be challenging. You are encouraged to talk to your loved ones one at a time or at a family gathering. The more those close to you are aware of your wishes, the more likely those wishes will be carried out should an illness or injury ever occur.
As you reflect and decide upon your wishes, we encourage you to write them down in an Advance Healthcare Directive document.
What is an Advance Healthcare Directive?
An advance healthcare directive is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to work with your doctors and others to help make sure your decisions about end-of-life healthcare are honored and respected in the event that you become unable to make these decisions for yourself.
There can be many issues to consider, included among them:
- if you want to be resuscitated if your breathing or heartbeat stops
- mechanical ventilators (breathing machines)
- artificial nutrition (tube feeding)
- organ and tissue donation
An Advance Healthcare Directive consists of two key components:
- First, you may want to appoint someone to be your healthcare agent. This person will have legal authority to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to make these decisions for yourself. Read more about Choosing An Agent
- Second, many people feel very strongly about what they want or do not want done for medical treatment. This is your opportunity to ensure that your wishes are conveyed and respected. Read more about Making Your Wishes Known
Advance directives are legal and binding throughout the United States and while you do not need a lawyer to fill out an advance directive, the laws governing advance directives vary from state to state. It is therefore important to make sure that you use a proper form or format appropriate to the state in which you live.
Useful forms related to your advance directive
If you have a serious, life-limiting illness or are medically frail, you might also want to consider asking your doctor about a form known as Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST).
Information provided by Coalition for Compassionate Care of California (CCCC).