Advance Care Planning

It’s the gift you give your loved ones...

Every day, we make dozens of choices for ourselves. Our friends and family learn these choices over time, remembering everything from our favorite colors to what drink to order for us at dinner. Yet when it comes to some of the most important choices we can make—choices about what we would want for our health care if we could not speak for ourselves—few of our friends and family can say for sure what our wishes are. Deciding the kind of health care you want at the end of your life is called Advance Care Planning, and it’s the greatest gift you can give your loved ones.

Advance care planning is:

  • Learning about possible decisions you may face during a health crisis or illness

  • Making choices that revolve around what is important to you

  • Talking about your decisions with loved ones and doctors

  • Writing down your plans so they will be ready if needed

The goal of Advance Care Planning is for you to live well, in a way that is meaningful to you, for as long as you live.

Why Plan Now? If you become unable to make your own decisions, and your wishes are not formally recorded, your physician will consult someone close to you about your care. They will rely on this person to try to guess your wishes. Don’t let a guess guide your health care! These questions are best considered, decided, and communicated to others in advance, long before there is a health crisis or illness.

Where do you start? Burke Hospice & Palliative Care is offering a special workbook called “The Gift: A Guide to Advance Care Planning” to help you get started. Inspired and edited by Burke County physicians, the workbook is designed to help you begin the process of Advance Care Planning. “The Gift” is available for download free of charge as a community service.

The book is filled with thought-provoking worksheets and information to help you choose how you would want to be treated in a variety of situations. It is an ideal resource for adults of any age who are concerned about planning for their future. Those who are caring for a parent or loved one may also find the book beneficial.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Advance Care Planning?

A: Advance Care Planning is making formal plans for the kind of health care you would want at the end of your life. It means knowing your treatment options and your values, talking with your loved ones, and recording your wishes.

What is an Advance Directive?

A: Advance Directives are legal documents that formally record your future healthcare wishes and appoint a person to make healthcare decisions if you are not able to speak for yourself. Advance Directive forms vary from state to state. In North Carolina, there are four documents that you may use: Living WillHealthcare Power of Attorney, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, and Medical Order for Scope of Treatment (MOST). These documents cover various aspects of end of life care.

Why bother with an Advance Directive if I just want my family to make the necessary decisions for me?

A: You can give your family specific instructions on your medical decisions, which will save them from a great deal of stress. First, you can designate the specific person (or persons) you trust to carry out your wishes—your spouse, sibling, child, etc. In fact, this person does not have to be a family member at all. Second, you can make your views known on a variety of circumstances. For example, your family may have no idea what you think about being on a breathing machine. Recording your wishes is a gift you can give the loved ones who are faced with making decisions about your care.

What happens if I do not complete my own Advance Directives?

A: There is not a simple answer to this question. In general, physicians consult with families when the person cannot make decisions. You have undoubtedly seen terrible stories in the news where one family member is battling another over their loved one’s medical treatments (or lack of treatments); you may have seen or experienced a conflict like it firsthand. If you cannot speak for yourself, the only way to ensure your health care wishes will be carried out is to record them in a set of Advance Directives.

If you would like to download “The Gift: A Guide to Advance Care Planning” to begin your advance care planning, click here.

To download a copy of the NC Healthcare Power of Attorney form, click here.

To download a copy of the NC Advance Directive for a Natural Death (Living Will), click here.