Advance care planning is a plan you make for the care you want if you are unable to communicate with your healthcare providers. This includes medical treatment, emergency treatment, and the care you’d receive should all treatments be exhausted (called end-of-life care).
Advance care planning means:
- Knowing and understanding the types of medical decisions you might have to consider in the future.
- Making your choices regarding those medical decisions.
- Talking about your choices with your family and providers.
- Creating a legal document, called an advance directive, that puts what you want into words and/or names the person you want to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated (called a durable power of attorney).
Your advance directive is only used if your condition makes it impossible for you to communicate with your providers.
Advance care planning isn’t just for the elderly
Advance care planning and advance directives aren’t just for seniors. They are important for everyone, especially if you have a condition that may affect your ability to communicate your healthcare wishes.
Instead of leaving these important decisions for your family to make, your doctors would turn to your advance directive for answers. This not only ensures you get what you want, it also removes the worries that families often face when forced to make healthcare decisions on their loved ones’ behalf.
How to create an advance directive
Your doctor is the best person to speak to about what you should consider during advance care planning. He or she can help you create a plan that is specific to your condition but also includes important information about the care you want in case of an emergency.
While a lawyer can help you create an advance directive, it isn’t necessary. But be aware that some states require a witness or notary public. AARP provides more information and free advance directive forms by state on its website.
Once you’ve created an advance directive, give a copy to your doctor and the person named in your durable power of attorney form (if you created one). Keep a copy in your personal files as well, and let your close family members or friends know where you keep it.
Making changes to your advance directive
An advance directive is a type of living document, which means you can make changes to it at any time.
It’s good to look over your plans periodically to make sure your wishes still align with what you want and where you are in your life. Reassess your advance directive if your condition changes or a new treatment option becomes available.