WHAT IS ADVANCE CARE PLANNING?
Advance care planning (ACP), “is a process that supports adults at any age or stage of health in understanding and sharing their personal values, life goals, and preferences regarding future medical care.” Defining Advance Care Planning for Adults: A Consensus Definition from a Multidisciplinary Delphi Panel. Sudore RL, Lum HD, You JJ, Hanson LC, Meier DE, Pantilat SZ, Matlock DD, Rietjens JAC, Korfage IJ, Ritchie CS, Kutner JS, Teno JM, Thomas J, McMahan RD, Heyland DK J Pain Symptom Manage. 2017 May; 53(5):821-832.e1.
Planning for health care in the future is important to make sure you get the medical care you would want, if you are unable to speak for yourself and doctors and family members are making the decisions for you. It allows you to take control; to make decisions about the treatments you wish to receive if you’re facing a medical crisis. These decisions may be based on your personal values, preferences, and discussions you’ve had with a medical professional and your loved ones.
Many people associate Advance Care Planning with the elderly or those at end-of-life, but for many of us, prior planning could prove to be beneficial at any age, or any stage in our lives. In fact, at the age of 18, you are legally an adult and as such, it is assumed you are competent to make healthcare decisions based on what you learn about the risks and benefits of treatments.
Advance Care Planning Can Include:
- Getting information on the types of life-sustaining treatments available
- Learning what these treatments entail and how they may affect your quality of life
- Deciding what types of medical treatment you would want / not want, should you be diagnosed with a life-limiting illness
- Sharing your personal values with your loved ones
- Completing advance directives in writing and/or on video, that outline the types of treatment you would or would not want – and who you want to speak for you – should you be unable to speak for yourself.
What is an Advance Care Directive?
An advance directive is a legally binding set of instructions that explains what you would wish for medical treatment if you are ever unable to speak for yourself. These instructions inform your health care providers and loved ones of your health care decisions and may include special actions or emergency care requested of your health care team.
An advance directive also lets people know who you have chosen to make decisions for you when you can’t. Advance directives only apply to health care decisions and do not affect financial or money matters. The laws around advance directives are different from state to state.
Aren’t Advance Directives for the Elderly or Chronically Ill?
Advance Directives are important for any adult, at any age or stage in their lives. Although most people associate Advance Directives with End-of-Life, or for those with chronic diseases, it is important to understand that not having Advance Directives can affect your safety in times of unexpected illness or accidents. Health care teams would be required to follow standard treatment protocols, rather than ones that respect your individual wishes.
The best Advance Directives are clear and easily accessible. They provide comfort to you, while giving medical professionals confidence that they are proceeding as you would wish. Explicit instructions also provide peace-of-mind for your loved ones, decreasing confusion, disputes and regrets.