Advance Care Planning
Advance Care Planning is for adults of any age, and it is an important step to plan for future medical needs. This process helps adults understand and share their personal values, life goals, and preferences regarding their future medical care. While this can be challenging and difficult, it is an important step that will serve as a gift to your loved ones if the need arises.
What You Need to Know
What is Advance Care Planning?
Advance Care Planning (ACP) involves learning about the types of decisions that might need to be made if you or someone you love is facing a serious illness. By thinking about those decisions ahead of time and letting others know, you can reduce some of the stress that can come with a serious illness diagnosis. As you consider your preferences, you can also write them down in a legal document, called an advance directive. An advance directive allows you to express your values and wishes related to health care and can be adjusted as your health changes, if needed.
What is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive consists of two items:
(1) A living will that details your wishes regarding your medical care
(2) A medical (health care) power of attorney which allows you to appoint a person to make health care decisions for you in the case you are unable to speak for yourself.
What is the difference between a POLST and an Advance Directive?
An advance directive is direction from the patient, not a medical order. In contrast, a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is a medical provider’s order that gives specific instructions to the Paramedics should 9-1-1 be called and allows the treating providers to know your wishes should hospitalization be required. These medical orders only apply to a limited population of patients and addresses a limited number of critical medical decisions. These orders can address things such as whether you would want to receive support from machines such as ventilators, artificial tube feedings or dialysis when you are seriously ill.
Does “Do Not Resuscitate” mean that I will not receive treatment if I go to the hospital?
No. A decision to have a “Do Not Resuscitate” order does not mean that you will not receive appropriate medical treatment if you are hospitalized. DNR is a medical order that informs providers not to try resuscitation because a person does not want it or because it won’t help. DNR is also called Allow Natural Death.
If I am healthy, why do I need ACP?
Advance Care Planning is not just about old age. At any age, a medical crisis could leave you too ill to make your own health care decisions. Planning for the future is an important step toward making sure you get the medical care you would want if you are unable to speak for yourself.
Do I need a lawyer?
While you can decide to work with a lawyer to create your Advance Directive as part of your Estate Plan, it is not required. There are standard documents available for you to complete and sign. Most Advance Directive forms will require either TWO witnesses (neither can be named in the document and one must be unrelated to the person) or a Notary Public to witness. A Notary Public will typically charge a fee to witness a document.
Is there a cost with ACP?
Advance Care Planning does not cost anything to complete. You may choose to work with a lawyer if you so desire and you may choose to have a Notary Public witness your document; in those cases, they will have professional fees associated with their services.
If you have questions, contact your physician who will serve as a resource.