What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance care planning allows you to make decisions about your medical treatment, should you become unable to make your own wishes known. These personal choices are based on your personal values, preferences and discussions with loved ones. Advance care planning includes:

  • Collecting information on the types of life-sustaining treatments available
  • Deciding which treatments you would (or would not) want if you are faced with a life-limiting illness and are unable to speak for yourself
  • Selecting a health care agent to act on your behalf
  • Completing an Advance Health Care Directive, which puts into writing the decisions made about your own health care preferences


What is an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD)?

An Advance Directive is a legal form that lets you choose the kind of health care you want. This way, those who care for you will not have to guess what you want if you are unable to tell them yourself.


What is a Health Care Agent?

A health care agent is a person who can make medical decisions for you if you are too ill to make them yourself. This role is also known as healthcare proxy or medical power of attorney.

The most common medical decisions made involve your personal choices regarding:

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Degree of medical intervention
  • Artificially administered nutrition


How do I prepare an Advance Directive?

You may complete an Advanced Directive without a lawyer. Read the form carefully, following state specific legal requirements. You will need a witness signature or to have the form notarized.

Keep your completed Advance Directive in a highly visible, easily accessible place; give photocopies to your loved ones, your doctor & your health care agent. The form stays in effect unless you cancel it or decide to complete a new one with changes. Photocopied forms are just as valid as the original.


Can I make up my own form or use one from another state?

Yes. Any type of form is legal as long as it has at least three things:

  • Your signature and date
  • The signature of two qualified witnesses with their witness statements
  • If you reside in a skilled nursing facility, the signature of the patient advocate or ombudsman. (See websites below for more detail on CA witness requirements.)


Where can I gather more details about Advanced Care Planning?

Comfort Homesake (Local): comforthomesake.com

Coalition for Compassionate Care of California: coalitionccc.org

Five Wishes is a well-rounded, user-friendly form: agingwithdignity.org

Caring Connections has state-specific forms: caringinfo.org

NHPCO supports compassionate care & quality at end-of-life: nhpco.org