It’s never too early to start the process of advance care planning.
Even the healthiest of individuals may face an unexpected health crisis that results in their inability to communicate their wishes for medical care.
Advance Care Planning requires you to think through decisions about who you would want to designate as the person to express your health care wishes and what kind of medical care you would want or not want. These decisions are different for everyone because the are based on individual beliefs, values and background.
Throughout this process, you may have a number of questions. We have several tools available to help you:
- Our education guides are designed to answer common questions.
- Please review the glossary if you have questions about terminology.
- For information about specific care options, review know your options for care.
Step 1. Reflect on Values and Beliefs
Think about what is most important to you. Take time to reflect on the important things in your life that will guide you to make decisions about health care options if you become seriously ill.
Q: Would you prefer receiving as much life-sustaining treatment as possible?
Q: Would you prefer limited medical treatment with a focus on quality of life and comfort?
These are important questions and will shape your experience if you were to face a health crisis limiting your ability to communicate (including at end-of-life).
Remember: You can always change your mind– anytime and as often as you want.
Step 2. Choose a Health Care Agent
It is important to identify someone you trust to serve as your health care agent. A Health Care Agent is the person you choose to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make your own decisions. Discussing and sharing your wishes with your Health Care Agent is important.
Step 3. Document Your Wishes
An Advance Directive for Health Care is your oral and written instructions about your future medical care in the event you are unable to express your medical wishes. An Advance Directive may include: identification of a health care agent, a personal statement of values and goals of care, and a living will.
The Honoring Choices® Idaho Advance Directive is a document that you can complete and update on your own.
“It really was not that hard to complete the paperwork. Having the discussion with my wife and daughter was harder, but I am glad we did talk. I realized they really did not know what I wanted.”
– Bill S. – age 85
Step 4. Share Your Wishes
Once you have made your decisions and completed your advance directive, be sure to share it with your loved ones and with your doctor, nurses, social workers and anyone who works with you on your medical and health care needs. Your well-thought out and personal plans are only effective if others know your wishes and can advocate for you when you are not able.
Including key friends and family members in your conversations may help alleviate conflict later.
Step 5. Talk with Your Doctor
It is important to talk with your health care providers about the pros and cons of various life-sustaining treatment options. Sometimes not knowing what to ask your health care provider can be daunting. Visit “Know your Options” for a list of questions to consider asking your provider. Bring your Health Care Directive to your health care provider to have it placed in your medical record.
Highly skilled, certified individuals are available to meet with individuals (and their families or friends) to facilitate an advance care planning conversation. Learn more about meeting with an advance care planning facilitator.