Who’ll speak for you if you’re too sick?
Get started with advance care planning.
Have you planned for your care in case of a medical crisis or serious illness? If you were too sick to speak, how would family members know what you'd want? Here are five things to know.
What is advance care planning?
Advance care planning is how you can help your loved ones and doctors make health care choices for you if you can't speak for yourself. Talk with them about your values and beliefs to help make your wishes clear.
Why is it important?
In a health crisis, you may not be able to speak for yourself. At some point, one out of every three people find themselves in this situation. They will need someone to choose care for them. That’s why it’s best to be ready.
What is an advance directive?
An advance directive is made up of two types of legal papers:
- A living will
- A durable power of attorney for health care
These forms will show your choices for end-of-life or critical care. It’s a good idea to work with a lawyer and your doctor to fill out these forms.
What is a living will?
A living will speaks for you. It lists your choices for care when you’re not able to speak for yourself. A living will helps when hard choices have to be made. It tells your family and doctors exactly what care you would and wouldn’t want.
Be sure to keep your living will papers up to date. Place them somewhere that they can be easily found.
What is a durable power of attorney for health care?
A durable power of attorney for health care is a legal paper that gives someone the power to carry out your medical wishes. The person you choose is known as your agent. Your agent should be a person who:
- Knows you well
- Understands what choices you’d make
- Can talk with your loved ones about your care
- Will make sure your wishes are carried out
It's best to plan when you’re healthy
Serious health problems can happen anytime. Having an advance directive helps make sure your wishes are carried out in a health crisis. It can give you and the people closest to you peace of mind.
Look ahead and ask yourself these questions:
- Would you want to have a machine help you breathe?
- Would you want doctors to keep you alive no matter what state you’re in?
- Would you want to be brought back to life if your heart stops?
- National Institute on Aging. NIH, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Advanced care planning: Health care directives.
- Medicare.gov. Advance directives & long-term care.
- CaringInfo.org. Advance directives.
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.