Having the Conversation
Why is Advanced Care planning important?
An Advanced Care Plan relieves family members from wondering if they "did the right thing" on your behalf. A plan also provides your health care team with information on your health care preferences and if you would want life-sustaining measures if there appeared to be little likelihood of your recovery. Having your decisions documented will assure everyone involved in your care knows what your wishes are.
Talking about the future
We recommend you talk with your loved ones once you have had an initial discussion about your healthcare wishes with your primary healthcare provider. You may find it helpful to bring a loved one to a future appointment with your healthcare provider.
Talking with your provider
Plan to make an appointment with your healthcare provider and let them know you would like to talk about making advanced healthcare plans. People who think through what is important to them and what their healthcare wishes are for the future often feel less anxious, more at peace and more in control of their health.
Before you meet with your healthcare provider, prepare for your conversation by thinking about these things:
What kind of information would help you make informed decisions about your future?
What is most important for you to have good quality of life?
What are you afraid of about your illness (if you have one)?
What kind of medical care do you not want?
What do you think it would be like to share these thoughts with your family?
If you haven't already identified a Medical Durable Power of Attorney, who would be able to fill that role?
What would you like to know about your illness and what is likely to be ahead?
When you meet with your healthcare provider:
Plan to bring any kind of advance directives you might already have filled out. This could include a living will, MOST form, or Medical Durable Power of Attorney form.
Ask for a copy of what advance care planning documents they recommend.
Talking with loved ones
Talking about illnesses and planning for a time when you may not be able to make decisions with friends and family may not be easy, but it will help them understand what is important. It will also help them support you and your decisions.
Before you talk to your loved ones, think about when and where you want to have this conversation. Choose a time and a place where you will feel relaxed and be sure you have time to talk for a while.
Starting the Conversation
If your loved one seems to be reluctant to have a conversation about your future healthcare wishes, use tips and conversation starters in this guide to start the conversation. You may be surprised how the person might open up once they realize how important the conversation is to you.
Here are some ways to help get the conversation started for people in different scenarios:
"My health is good right now, but I want to talk to you about what I'd want if I was sick and needed you to make decisions for me."
"I have just filled out some forms about my wishes for future healthcare and I want to share it with you."
"I am doing ok right now, and even though there is no rush, my doctors think we need to begin talking about my future care. My doctors believe in being prepared and they want to know my goals and wishes for medical care so I want to discuss them with you."
"Since you are important to me, I'd also like you to be part of the conversation about my future healthcare wishes."
Share what is important to you with your loved ones by talking about the following topics:
Goals and wishes:
I'd like to share some of my goals that might affect my healthcare decisions. Some things I'm looking forward to are... Examples: Meet my new grandchild, celebrate my next birthday, etc.
Fears and worries:
My biggest fears and worries about my future are... Examples: Who will look after my children, will my family be provided for, etc.
My biggest fears and worries about my future with this illness are... Examples: Not being able to make decisions for myself or having to ask others for help with basic needs.
I know that difficult choices about my care may have to be made. Some things I want to discuss are... Examples: Being in the hospital, having a feeding tube, living in a nursing home, being on a breathing machine, additional or experimental treatments, etc.
Once you have completed your advance directive, ensure that copies are provided to your health care proxy, your health care providers, your hospital, and others whom you think should have the information. You may want to review your advance directive from time to time, but for the most part, once you have taken the important step to complete one, you can be comfortable knowing that your wishes and preferences are known, and thus much more likely to be followed.