What is Advance Care Planning?

End-of-life discussions are never easy, but their results are often vital to a person’s overall care and quality of life. Advance care planning is a process of planning that ensures any family, loved ones, physicians and nursing staff honor the wishes and preferences of an individual when it comes to end-of-life care. While typically targeted toward older adults, health organizations strongly recommend anyone over the age of 18 have a plan in place in the event of debilitating illness or injury.

Advance Directives and Planning for the Future

Part of advance care planning involves developing advance directives. These are a set of documents that state your preferences for healthcare. This includes care you wish to receive and not receive, noted in a living will. In addition, an advance directive also allows individuals to designate a health care proxy. In the event of a serious illness or injury that leaves a person unable to communicate their wishes, the health care proxy receives the authority to make decisions on their behalf.

The documents in an advance directive are legal documents. Individuals may change them throughout their lifetime according to preferences and desired proxy.

What Does an Advance Directive Include?

An advance directive may contain multiple parts. It primarily includes a living will, which outlines the wishes of the individual. The directive also contains the name and contact information of the designated health care proxy. An advance directive may also contain a medical power of attorney and/or a financial power of attorney. Some individuals may even elect to include a do not resuscitate order (DNR).

The Importance of Advance Care Planning

The greatest benefit advance care planning provides is peace of mind – both for individuals and for their loved ones. It also reassures that the individual will receive their desired methods of care – no matter what happens. The best way to ensure all wishes are fulfilled is to inform all parties of the documents, including any medical care providers.

For hospice patients, especially, an advance directive simplifies the process of care and reduces stress for family members. As a result of living out their wishes, patients can see an improvement in their quality of life, which is the overall goal of hospice care. However, despite its importance, only 88 percent of hospice care patients have an advance directive on record.

Why Would Someone Not Have an Advance Directive?

There are several reasons someone may not have an advance directive, such as:

  • Lack of awareness of advance care planning and its benefits
  • Denial or difficulty moving forward with end-of-life discussions
  • Misinterpretation or misunderstanding of care options
  • Cultural differences and preferences when it comes to end-of-life planning

Starting End-of-Life Discussions

Families often avoid end-of-life discussions and planning. Because of this, many run into difficulties when their loved one receives a serious diagnosis and is unable to clearly communicate desires for his or her care. This includes the decision to enroll in hospice care. By engaging in these important discussions, you can not only outline a plan for your future, but you can also receive the added benefits of less stress and anxiety over whether your wishes will be carried out.

For individuals ready to talk about their next steps, Family Hospice is available to answer questions and provide resources to assist families through this next stage of life. Call us at 618-277-1800 or contact us online to learn more.


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