Charting the Course: Plan your health care future now

In this age of Google Maps, GPS and AAA, not many of us start out on a trip without some type of guidance. When we plan and get guidance, it removes many of the stresses and uncertainties of our journey. Yet only 30% of Americans have a living will, a map detailing the direction of their health care decisions.

Thinking about illness and death can be frightening. It is not easy for the majority of people to start the discussion with their family members. Advance care planning allows a person to make his or her wishes and care preferences known before being faced with a medical crisis.

Advance care planning is simply smart life-planning; it is not about limiting or rationing care. It’s not about hastening death. It is about personal choice. An individual’s personal wishes, beliefs and values are among the most important factors when making care decisions. Such wishes and preferences can be known only if they are discussed openly. These open discussions with a physician and family members, often result in a higher quality of life for both the patient and their family.

Advance care planning includes completing a living will and appointing a health care proxy.

  • A living will charts the course for your health care, letting your family and health care providers know what procedures and treatments you would want provided to you and under what conditions.
  • A health care proxy or health care power of attorney form allows you to choose someone you trust to take charge of your health care decisions in case you are unable to make those decisions yourself.

Advance directives, as these documents are also known, can be changed as an individual’s situation or wishes change.

Think about your future.  Think about taking some stress off of your family.  Making a detailed map now is easy and well worth the time.