What is Advance Care Planning?

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Published on April 09, 2021

What is Advance Care Planning?

You may not want to think about end-of-life care, but now is the perfect time to make a plan.

Photo of a mother and daughter embracing and smilingMore than one in four adults do not plan for end-of-life care, but it’s something that’s important to do. Not planning in advance can result in emotional distress for family members as they try to decide what you would want if you cannot speak for yourself or make your own decisions. And it can mean that the decisions they make are not what you would want.

Many people don’t know what goes into advance care planning. The information below can help clear up the confusion.

What is an advance directive?

Advance care planning involves writing down your preferences for end-of-life care in a document called an advance directive or living will. This is a legal document that includes the name of the person you authorize to make decisions on your behalf. This person is called your healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney for healthcare. He or she should be someone you trust will honor your wishes and who understands what you want. The document may also specify what actions should be taken if you cannot make healthcare decisions for yourself.

What do you do with an advance directive?

Once your advance directive has been completed and signed, copies should be given to your healthcare proxy, healthcare providers, hospital and anyone else you feel should have the information. It’s a good idea to review your advance directive from time to time. If you make any changes, be sure to communicate those changes and provide a new document to the people who need to know.

Is there anything else you should do?

PIH Health Medical Social Worker of Palliative Care Dan Ogletree MSW, says, “In addition to the documentation, one of the most important parts of advance care planning is telling family members what you would want in the event of a life-threatening illness or injury.” Even if you don’t feel comfortable talking to all family members about this difficult subject, you should at least share your wishes with the person you designate as your healthcare proxy.

What are the benefits of advance care planning?

Although end-of-life decisions are not something you want to think about, creating an advance directive and sharing your wishes with the people closest to you should bring you the comfort of knowing that you’re doing something good for you and your family. It helps ensure your wishes are known and are more likely to be followed. And it makes difficult decisions for your family a little easier.

For more information or for guidance on beginning the Advance Care Planning process, visit https://www.pihhealth.org/patients-visitors/advance-care-planning-end-of-life-decisions/ or call 562.947.8478 Ext. 82199.



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Date Last Reviewed: February 7, 2020

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.