For Patients & Visitors
Advance Care Planning Frequently Asked Questions
Does talking about end of life mean it will happen sooner?
Nobody knows how today will end or what will happen tomorrow. Therefore, it is important for everyone to have a plan for when it is needed.
What should I do after I talk about advance care planning with my family?
After you have had the conversation, it is important to document it. Your wishes can be documented by creating an advance care plan.
How can I make my advance care plan legal?
To make your advance care plan legal, it has to be signed in front of two witnesses or signed in front of a notary public. Notaries can be found in hospitals at no cost to you. Appointments are required.
I don’t want to burden my family with having to make decisions for me.
Caring for others is what families do. Sometimes part of that caring involves making decisions. End-of-life decisions can be difficult, and an advance care plan is one way to ease some of the decision-making burden. A person’s wishes are communicated in an advance care plan. It is the role of the power of attorney to express those wishes after the decision has already been made about end-of-life treatments.
When is the right time to complete an advance care plan?
Anyone over the age of 18 can create an advance care plan. As a person ages, it is a good idea to consider end-of-life treatment options. It is never too early to create one.
How can I ensure my wishes will be honored?
Your health care team generally will follow your health care directive or any instructions from your agent, as long as the health care follows reasonable medical practice. You should inform others of your health care documents and give people copies of them. You may wish to inform family members, your health care agent or agents, and your health care team that you have health care documents. You should give them a copy. It’s a good idea to review and update your directive as your needs change. Keep it in a safe place where it can be easily found.
How should I make decisions about my health care?
It is most important that you think about what is best for you and not what your family, friends or doctors would want for you. Decision-making should be aligned with your values. Your values are what is most important to you and what gives your life meaning. If your values would be threatened with treatments, what would quality of life look like for you?
What happens if I change my mind?
Advance care plan forms should be reviewed with your health care professional frequently. If you change your mind regarding some of your wishes, complete a new form. The most current form on file will be used.
Who is the best person to choose as my power of attorney?
It is important to choose someone as your power of attorney that you trust to express your wishes. In order for that person to express your wishes properly, you should have a conversation with your power of attorney about what your wishes are, even though you have documented them in the forms.
If my loved one can no longer communicate his or her health care wishes, can we still complete advance care planning forms?
If a person can no longer communicate his or her wishes, it is too late to complete an advance care plan. Contact the patient's primary care provider with questions.
Where can I get advance care plan forms?
Advance care plan documents can be obtained by contacting your local hospital social work department or contacting your primary care professional's office. You also can obtain the form on the Create It page.
Will emergency medical technicians (EMTs) honor instructions from an advance care directive in emergency situations?
No, EMTs cannot follow advance care plan forms in emergency situations as they are not signed by a physician. However, they can follow orders on a POLST form since a POLST is a doctor’s order. This is also another reason why POLST forms can be beneficial for seriously ill people who do not want to go through some medical treatments in the event of an emergency.