Do I need advance care planning?

Multi-generational family sitting on a couch taking a fun photo

Not sure if you need to outline your health care preferences and end-of-life wishes?

The answer is yes, you do.

Too often, we wait for a crisis to discuss how we want our medical care to be directed. During these stressful times, there are many decisions that must be made quickly.

You can ease the stress, and make sure your wishes are known, by creating an advance directive and doing other advance care planning.

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive is a legal document that provides written instructions for the care of your health in the event that you become temporarily or permanently incapable of making or communicating these decisions.

Read more about advance directives

Do I need advance care planning if I’m still young?

If you have young children at home, advanced care planning isn’t just about covering medical decisions.

It can help outline the safety nets you want in place for other people to take care of your children.

Yes. At any time, you could have a health care crisis or accident, and your family may not know your wishes.

It’s important to discuss these things with your parents, spouse and children.

Your views on what you want may differ from theirs, and it’s crucial that they know how you want your care carried out.

Do I need advance care planning if I already have a will?

Yes. Your will only allocates where you want your resources and possessions to go. Your advance care planning covers the health care decisions you want made.

Do I need advance care planning if I’m pretty sure my family knows what I would want?

Yes. In an emergency, your family may want to do everything they can to save you. But if you don’t want those extreme measures taken, you need to let them know and have it officially documented in your advance care plan.

If you know there’s going to be discrepancies between family members regarding things like organ donation, DNR orders, or extreme life-sustaining measures, it highlights the need to have legal documentation outlining your wishes.

It also helps point to who your health care advocate should be.

What if I don’t want to upset my family by talking about this?

Open and honest dialogue will help ensure your family knows exactly what you want. Click for tips to start the conversation.

Assure your family that nothing’s wrong, you just want to make sure you all understand each other’s wishes if or when the time comes to make those decisions.

If you have a living will or durable power of attorney for health care, discuss what is written in it with your family and why you made the choices you did.

Talk about the things that are important to you. For example:

  • If something happens to me, I want my sister to take care of my children.
  • I want to live as long as possible, even if I’m hooked up to machines or drastic measures have to be taken.
  • I don’t want to be hooked up to machines, or have drastic measures taken to prolong my life at any cost.
  • If I become ill, it’s really important to me to fight it and have treatment options.
  • If I were sick, I would rather have quality of life over quantity of life.
  • I want to be surrounded by my friends and family if I am sick or dying.
  • I don’t want to die the way my mother did, unable to communicate or move.
  • It’s important that my faith is respected in my treatment.

Click here for more resources from our friends at The Conversation Project.

Your wishes may be different from another family member’s, and that’s OK.

As long as you understand each other, and know where official documentation is filed, you can have peace of mind knowing decisions about your life and your care will be what you want.

You and your family may go through some anticipatory grief talking about these issues.

Nobody wants to think about their loved ones dying. But making these decisions now can help relieve some of your family’s uncertainty, stress and grief in the midst of tragedy.

Need more information about advance care planning?

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