Advance Care Planning
Who would speak for you if you couldn't speak for yourself? It's time to plan.
At any age, a medical crisis could leave you too ill to make your own health care decisions. Advance care planning allows you to make decisions about the care you would want to receive if you become unable to speak for yourself.
Making your medical decisions known can give you peace of mind that your wishes will be respected, your health care provider will know your preferences, and you will lessen the burden on family and friends from having to make decisions for you.
While 92% of Americans say it’s important to discuss their wishes for end-of-life care, only 32% have had such a conversation. (The Conversation Project National Survey, 2018).
It's time to start the conversation.
Where Do I Begin?
Explore Your Choices
Learn about the types of medical decisions that might need to be made and what you would want. The following resources are free and provide information about advance care planning.
Free Advance Care Planning Resources
- ABA Toolkit for Healthcare Advance Planning
- The Conversation Project Starter Kit
- AARP End-of-Life Care
- Becoming an Organ Donor
Select a Health Care Proxy
Decide who will speak on your behalf if you are unable. You’ll want to pick someone who agrees to be your health care proxy and would be available. You’ll also want to clearly explain your wishes to your proxy and be assured that your proxy will carry out your wishes.
Put Your Wishes in Writing
Let others know about your preferences in writing through an “advance directive” document. In the next section, we provide more information about advance directive documents.
Types of Advance Directives
“Advance directives” outline actions that should be taken about your health care if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself due to incapacity or illness. These legally binding documents outline your wishes regarding life support, resuscitation, and other interventions for both your health care team and your family members.
If you establish an advance directive, make sure members of your immediate family know about them and where they are located. You'll also want to share a copy with your providers to be included as part of your medical records. And don’t forget to bring a copy with you when you're admitted to the hospital.
Creating an advance directive document is not a one-time decision. It can be changed as your personal circumstances change. However, if your advance directives change, you’ll need to let your family and providers know.
Advance directives include the following.
A "living will" describes what kinds of medical treatments you would or would not want at the end of life.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A "healthcare power of attorney" (or "proxy" or "agent" or "surrogate") lists the person you select to be your voice for your healthcare decisions if you cannot speak for yourself.
There are also other documents that can supplement your advance directive or stand alone, such as a DNR (Do-Not-Resuscitate order). Other forms allow you to state your preferences with respect to organ and tissue donation, dialysis, and blood transfusions.
State Law Resources
Many states have established requirements regarding advance directives and offer instructions and forms free of charge. If you are a UnityPoint Health patient, select the state where you live for more information about advance directives and health care decision making in your state.