Advance Care Planning

Preparing for what may come can provide peace of mind. Let us help.

Most people agree it’s important to talk about advance care planning with their family—yet only a third have done it. Advance care planning helps you stay involved in your healthcare if you can no longer make decisions for yourself. Use this page to learn more about how to do it. We’ve outlined five steps you can take and provided a host of resources to help you feel as prepared as you can.

The Five Steps of Advance Care Planning

Step 1: Choose your health care proxy or decision maker

This means that you will choose someone you trust and who understands your wishes to make healthcare decisions for you if you become unable to make the choices yourself.

Some help to get you started:

These resources are from The Conversation Project, an organization dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care.

Your Guide to Choosing a Health Care Proxy This helpful guide walks you through how to choose the right proxy for you.

Who will speak for you? Watch this friendly video with ideas on selecting the right person to be your proxy and avoiding those who aren’t.

Step 2: Identify your values regarding health care

In this step you consider what you want done during your end-of-life care. You should think about how much, or how little you want done to prolong your life.

Some help to get you started:

This information was also created by The Conversation Project, an organization dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. And while the title talks about starting a conversation, the information walks you though how to make some choices for yourself.

Your Conversation Starter Guide This helpful guide walks you not only how to help a loved one identify their values, but also how to do if for yourself.

Step 3: Have a conversation about these values

Talk with your loved ones, your doctor, and your decision-maker. It is important that they all understand what your wishes are. Doing this can help ease their minds in knowing that they are doing what you asked for.

Some resources to get a conversation started with loved ones:

Practice Makes Perfect Watch this friendly video with ideas on how to start a conversation about the need for advance care planning with a loved one.

Death Over Dinner, a fun and free website tool that helps families and friends have the conversation over dinner, the most forgiving place for a difficult conversation.

Step 4: Complete an Advance Directive

This is the actual document where you put in writing what you do and don’t want to be done should you be unable to speak for yourself. You can download a copy of your state’s advance directive form here.

While there are many options available, we have chosen one tool that we like, to help you complete the questions the form requires:

Prepare for your Care. This step-by-step program with video stories can help you and your loved ones through the process of advance care planning.

Step 5: Give your wishes to your doctor and your health care proxy

When your Advance Directive is completed and that includes being notarized and properly witnessed, provide copies to your doctor and your decision maker, as well as to any loved ones who might like a copy.

A note about notaries: As mentioned, you’ll need a notary to formally sign and recognize your Advance Directive. This may require a small fee, though many offer this service free for seniors and veterans. You can usually find Notaries at UPS or FedEx Stores. You may also have a notary service available through your bank. Plus, there are notary services that can be used online without leaving home.

If you’ve not already do so, now is the right time to do your advance care planning. And once you have it in place, review it at least annually to make sure it still reflects your needs and values, as they may change over time.

More Information You Can Use

A compassionate look at end-of-life care

These documentaries show how different people deal with their and their loved ones’ end-of-life decisions.

Extremis. This Netflix documentary that follows a palliative care physician as she provides care and counseling to patients at the bustling Highland Hospital in Oakland, CA.

End Game. This documentary weaves together three stories of visionary medical providers who are helping to change the way we think about life and death.

Being Mortal (PBS Hour Episode), follows renowned New Yorker writer and former Boston surgeon Atul Gawande as he looks at the relationships doctors have with patients who are nearing the end of life.

About your Medicare hospice care benefit

Your Medicare hospice benefit provides you with end-of-life treatment, including support for your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. The goal of hospice care is to help keep you comfortable, so you can live each day as fully as possible.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services offers this booklet with information about your Medicare hospice benefits.

The National Council of Aging (NCOA) provides insight into your Medicare hospice benefit.

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