What is meant by ‘advance care planning’ and ‘advance directives?’

Advance care planning is the process of making decisions about the kind of care you would want to receive if you were unable to speak for yourself.  It is your wishes based on your personal values, preferences and thoughtful consideration of those closest to you.

Your wishes are then put into written legal documents called advance directives. It is up to you to share these documents with your family, your medical team and those who will be entrusted to carry out your directives.

In most cases, advance directives include the following types of documents:

  • A health care proxy,which may also be called a “Health Care or Medical Power of Attorney” or a “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.” This document names a specific person who will make the health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. A physician must conclude that the person is unable to make their own decisions and a second doctor must agree before the medical power of attorney goes into effect.
  • A living will.Living wills give directions about the kind of health care you want when you are not able to make a decision for yourself. Living wills state which medical treatments you would accept or refuse if your life was threatened and you were not able to express these wishes.
  • After-death wishes.These may include decisions such as organ and tissue donation.

Advanced care planning is important for people of all ages because anything can happen to anyone at any time and having a plan in place will help ensure that your healthcare wishes are known and honored in any situation. In fact, today most hospitals will ask if you have advance directives any time you are admitted to the hospital.

If you have Medicare, Part B covers voluntary Advance Care Planning as part of the Medicare Yearly Wellness Visit. You can talk about an advance directive with your health care professional, and he or she can help you fill out the forms.You can also download advance directive forms online or contact your local office on aging, your state health department or an attorney to learn more about advance directives.

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