Advance Care Planning is a process for all adults that includes planning for future healthcare decisions by thinking about what matters most to you. You’ll write your preferences in an advance directive.
An advance directive is a legal document that goes into effect only if you are unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself.
Advance Care Planning is for everyone, including:
- Anyone age 18 and older who is able to make their own decisions. (Parents are no longer legally responsible for healthcare decisions for children age 18 and older unless they become their child’s legal guardian).
- Young healthy adults, in case of an accident or trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident.
- Adults with chronic health conditions, to explore their wishes related to treatment of the disease vs. management of chronic symptoms.
- Adults who are terminally ill, to be clear about your end-of-life goals and wishes related to comfort.
Advance Care Planning is about conversations that become documents — and documents that become conversations.
- An advance directive allows you to choose someone to speak for you. They become your “voice” if you lose the ability to be part of making healthcare decisions on your own. This person is often referred to as your healthcare agent. Choose someone you trust to make healthcare decisions for you, such as a family member or friend. If you do not identify a healthcare agent in an advance directive, the laws in the state where you live may dictate who makes your healthcare decisions.
- Advance directive documents are free and available across Ascension sites of care. Some advance directive documents are legal documents that must be followed. Other advance directive documents are not legal documents. But they do explain your wishes to your family, friends, doctors and healthcare providers. Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider if you have questions. Ask about which type of advance directive might be right for you.
Getting started with advance care planning
Your advance care plan is based on your values and beliefs. We help you to focus on what really matters to you.
- Think about it. The first step in the process is to ask yourself:
- What is most important in your life?
- What brings you joy?
- What cultural or religious beliefs are important to you when making healthcare decisions?
- Who would you trust to make healthcare decisions for you?
- What has your healthcare provider shared about your health condition and what you might expect in the future?
- What are your hopes for treatment such as to maintain or improve quality of life?
- Talk about it. Next, begin talking to both your chosen healthcare agent and your healthcare provider about your wishes and preferences.
- The ACP conversation involves discussing who you trust to make decisions for you, addressing any fears or concerns, and understanding what matters most to you if you were faced with a serious illness.
- Write it down. Write down your wishes and preferences in an advance directive form. If you need help finding the form, ask your healthcare provider.
- Share it. Once your advance directive is complete, share a copy of the form with your family, close friends, and healthcare team.
- It's important to let your family and friends know who your chosen healthcare agent is and what your healthcare wishes are, if you are unable to speak for yourself.
- Whenever you are admitted to a healthcare facility, take a copy of your advance directive with you.
Managing your future health care
There is a lot to think about when planning for the future. We recommend you review your document annually or with any changes in your health conditions.
Sometimes, we may think our loved ones know what we want. But we may create stress and confusion for our loved ones when they try to guess our values and wishes. Advance Care Planning is a gift to help your family.