Advance care planning

You might hear “advance care planning” and think, “I’m not quite ready for that, am I?” But the truth is, advance care planning is simply that. It’s planning, in advance, how to handle certain health care decisions on your behalf that may come up in the future. (And it’s never too early to get your ducks in a row.) It should be a natural conversation with loved ones about what’s important to you. You’ll express your preferences and wants as they relate to your health, should you ever become unable to make those decisions for yourself. It’s a way for loved ones to know what to do and how to support your wishes.

What is advance care planning?

The outcome of advance care planning is a legal document known as an advance directive. It’s only used if you’re unable to make your own health care decisions. Creating that document includes conversations around things like:1

  • The types of available life-sustaining treatments (things like intubation, ventilation, artificial nutrition, etc.)
  • Your decisions about what types of treatment you would or would not want if you’re diagnosed with a life-limiting illness
  • Who you choose to speak on your behalf

Do I need to talk to my doctor about my advance care planning documents?

Another great question. (You’re on a roll.) It’s not necessary to talk to your doctor about your advance care planning, but it’s probably a good idea. You can never be too prepared, right? Your doctor can take a look at your documents and make sure your health care directive is clear and that there’s no concern with your wishes from a medical perspective. Your doctor can also help you clarify anything that needs a little extra detail. Plus, if you have questions about things you’ve read or heard about advance care directives, they could be a good resource for answers.