Advance care planning is making decisions about the care you would want to receive if you become unable to speak for yourself. These are your decisions to make, regardless of what you choose for your care, and the decisions are based on your personal values, preferences, and discussions with your loved ones.
If you are in an accident or have an illness that leaves you unable to talk about your wishes, who will speak for you? You can tell your family, friends and healthcare providers what your wishes and personal beliefs are about continuing or withdrawing medical treatments at the end of life.
Advance care planning includes:
- Getting information on the types of life-sustaining treatments that are available
- Deciding what types of treatment you would or would not want should you be diagnosed with a life-limiting illness
- Pick a specific person to speak on your behalf if you cannot speak for yourself; while this might be a spouse or parent, you want to make sure that as part of your advance directive you designate the person you want – this person is often called your healthcare proxy or healthcare power of attorney.
- Sharing your personal values with your loved ones
- Completing advance directives to describe what types of treatment you would or would not want should you be unable to speak for yourself
Communicate Your End-of-Life Wishes
Decisions about end-of-life care are deeply personal, because it is impossible to foresee every type of circumstance or illness, it is essential to think in general about what is important to you. Conversations that focus on your wishes and beliefs will relieve loved ones and healthcare providers of the need to guess what you would want.
While it can be difficult to initiate these conversations, ultimately, they can be an invaluable gift to those you love and those providing medical care.
Review these documents for ideas that will help you with making your wishes known and sharing them with your loved ones.
"Advance directive" describes two types of legal documents, "Medical Power of Attorney" and "Living Will" that enable you to plan for and communicate your end-of-life wishes in the event that you are unable to communicate.
A Medical Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a person you trust as your healthcare agent (or surrogate decision maker), who is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself.
A Living Will allows you to document your wishes concerning medical treatments that you would or would not want if facing a serious or life-limiting illness.