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Advance care planning

Learn more about advance care planning, which empowers you to better plan for your future medical care.

Advance directives

Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to give directions for your future medical care. It's your right to accept or refuse medical care. Advance directives help protect this right.

Advance directives help make your medical preferences known if you become physically or mentally unable to communicate them in your time of need. They help protect your rights in the event of irreversible brain damage, terminal illness, permanent coma or other unconscious states.

Advance directives are valuable tools. They can help your family by freeing them of the responsibility and stress of making difficult decisions for you. They also help your healthcare provider by giving directions for your care.

Types of advance directives

There are two types of advance directives:

  • Living will — This is a set of written instructions that explain your wishes for healthcare should you develop a condition that disables your ability to communicate.
  • Durable power of attorney for healthcare — Also known as a "healthcare proxy," this is a document in which you name a person to be your proxy, enabling them to make medical decisions for you should you become unable to do so.

What to consider when advance care planning

When creating an advance care plan, there are several aspects to consider. We've put together the following guidelines to help make your plan:

  • Check state laws regarding living wills and durable powers of attorney for healthcare.
  • Medical issues to consider when making your plan include:
    • A "do not resuscitate" (DNR) order allows you to refuse attempts to restore heartbeat.
    • In your plan, you may request or refuse pain management controls and a variety of specific medical procedures.
    • Organ donation allows you to donate specific organs or your entire body through your advance directive.
  • Put your wishes in writing and be as specific as possible.
  • Sign and date your advance directive and have it notarized if necessary.
  • Keep a card in your wallet stating that you have an advance directive and where to find it.

After you have made, signed and notarized your advance care plan, it's important to notify certain people in your life. We recommend the following:

  • Discuss your advance directive with family and friends. Give a copy to anyone who might be notified in an emergency.
  • Give your healthcare provider a copy for your medical records.
  • If you use a durable power of attorney for health care, give your proxy a copy too.