Advance directives: Put your plan on paper
After reflection and discussion about your wishes, complete an advance directive to formalize your plan. Share it with your health care agent and physician and discuss it with your family and friends.
An advance directive allows you to:
- Formally name your health care agent and define his or her authority related to your health care decisions.
- Express your wishes related to treatment options.
- Prepare your final thoughts and feelings should you be unable to communicate when the time comes.
- Request any special ceremonies or traditions.
- Share your wishes for post-death care of your body.
What would Gramma want? One family’s experience on why advance directives are so important.
Ten years ago, Ashley Kozicki’s step-grandmother suffered a life-altering medical event that not only changed her life completely but continues to greatly impact her family.
What's the difference between advance care planning and an advance directive?
Advance care planning is about the important conversations that occur before you prepare your advance directive legal document. In other words, advance care planning is the process and an advance directive is the result of that process.
Make a plan for peace of mind
Advance care planning starts with a conversation between you and your loved ones about your preferences for your future medical decisions, including end-of-life care. These discussions can seem overwhelming, but a little planning can equal peace of mind now and a less stressful time when care is needed.
Who should have an advance care plan?
Advance care planning is for any individual over age 18. It's about putting a plan in place before you need it.
Keep the conversation going
Your preferences may change over time. A life event may change the way you wish to plan for future care. Advance care planning is a process that is shaped by your life experiences, so it is important to continue the conversation throughout life's changes.
Conversation starters: Questions to consider in advance care planning
What makes me happy?
What does a good day look like for you? With whom would you spend that day? This discussion helps you reflect on what living well means to you.
What happens if I cannot speak for myself?
To discuss an advance care plan with your loved ones, it's helpful to think through possible scenarios and how you want them handled. Consider what would happen if you had a traumatic accident or sudden illness that left you unable to communicate your wishes for medical care. What do your religious, spiritual or personal beliefs say about the health care you want to receive?
Whom do I want to speak for me in that situation?
It is important to select a health care agent who can speak for you if a time should come when you can't speak for yourself. Your agent should be a person you know, trust and who will act on your wishes.
How have past experiences shaped my feelings about the care I want?
If you have been through serious health situations with friends or family, you may have feelings about how the situation unfolded. You should
ask yourself how you felt about
that situation. Were there medical interventions that person went through you do or do not want?
What did I learn from those experiences?
Reflect on your personal beliefs, values and past experiences to help you answer questions like:
- How do I define quality of life?
- What do I want my loved ones to know?
- When is a peaceful death preferable to prolonging life?
What happens if I don't have an advance care plan and an advance directive?
No advance care plan:
Family, friends and your medical team will not have an understanding or an appreciation of your individual wishes related to your current and future health care.
More importantly, if you do not participate in any advance care planning, then you may not have had an opportunity to truly consider your own wishes.
No advance directive:
Without an advance directive, your wishes regarding health care may not be known.
More importantly, there will likely be no one who will have legal authority to make medical or health care decisions on your behalf without the court or legal system getting involved.