The Importance of Advance Care Planning

Although thinking about end-of-life care can be difficult, it’s important to establish plans in the event that you or a loved one aren’t able to communicate your preferences.

This process of making decisions about your future health care is called advance care planning, and it’s a crucial step to take when facing a serious illness.

But despite the importance of having these discussions, more than 70 percent of Americans currently don’t have advance care plans in place. Understandably, broaching the subject of end-of-life care can be challenging, but having conversations now about your wishes and what quality of life looks like to you can prepare you for the future.

Advance care planning ensures that your wishes and values are reflected in the care you receive, and it helps both your medical professionals and family members know how to move forward if you’re not able to voice your wants.

Making an advance care plan can include learning more about life-sustaining treatments, and discussing what types of treatment you would — or wouldn’t — want. It can also mean exploring what quality of life looks like to you and what your values are when it comes to end-of-life care.

To start an initial conversation, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) suggests asking permission the introduce the topic using questions such as:

  • “If you ever got sick, I would be afraid of not knowing the kind of care you would like. Could we talk about this now? I’d feel better if we did.”
  • “I want to share my wishes about how I’d like to be cared for in the event I was sick or injured; can we do that now?”

When having these conversations, remember to be open and honest, and if you’re listening to a loved one’s wishes, don’t turn the conversation into a debate. 

In some cases, you might create an advance directive, or a legal document that establishes your wishes for the type of care you wish to receive. Advance directives can include living wills, do not resuscitate (DNR) orders, and durable power of attorney (DPA) for health care.

 Instructions for how to complete an advance directive may vary slightly by state, so it’s important to find the forms pursuant to where you live; you can find directions for your state here.

 If you’re not sure where to start, Agape Care is here to be a resource as you begin advance care planning.

 Learn more about this important process at: