What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance Care Planning helps adults at any age or stage of health understand and share their personal values, life goals, and preferences regarding future medical care. It is a gift you give your loved ones who might otherwise struggle during a medical emergency to make choices about your care. It will ensure that your medical care reflects your individual priorities around comfort, quality of life, longevity, and lifestyle – whether or not you are able to voice those choices in the moment.

Advance Care Planning is not a single decision; it is a process that occurs over a lifetime as goals and values change. Steps in the Advance Care Planning process include:

  • Thinking about your wishes for future care if you became seriously ill. Your wishes may be shaped by your experiences, cultural and religious views, your values and your goals. Wishes regarding specific aggressive medical treatments or procedures (such as chest compressions or intubation) are called “Advance directives”.
  • Selecting a health care agent – someone that you trust to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself.
  • Discussing your wishes with your health care agent and other loved ones. This step is sometimes difficult, but it is a very important, and may help avoid future conflicts.
  • Completing an Advance Care Planning document, like an Advance Directive. In some situations, a health care provider might suggest also completing a Medical Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) form.
  • Making copies and sharing copies with your health care agent, physicians and loved ones. Make sure that your Advance Directive is in your medical record.
  • Periodically reviewing your Advance Care Planning documents to be sure names, contact information and healthcare wishes haven’t changed.


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