Advance Care Planning: FAQs

An elderly couple sitting on a sofa while looking at a tablet computer together

Answering Common Questions About Advance Directives

Promoting Awareness and Education for Older Adults

Last month, in preparation of National Healthcare Decisions Day coming up in April, we began sharing advance care planning resources so you can start thinking about your own plans now. We shared resources to help you get your affairs in order as well as the initial steps you can take today.

Now we would like to answer some basic questions around the topic of advance care planning to help provide more context and greater understanding.

What are advance directives?

Advance directives are documents that provide instructions for medical care. These documents only go into effect if you are unable to communicate your own wishes. Scenarios where this might occur include if you were to suffer a stroke or be injured in a car accident.

What are the most common advance directives?

Living Will

This is a legal document that tells your doctors how you wish to be treated in an emergency if you are unable to make your own decisions. A living will includes things like:

  • Which common medical treatments or care you would want
  • What treatments or care to avoid
  • The conditions in which your choices apply

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

This is a legal document that names your health care proxy—the person who can make treatment decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate. Your proxy should be someone who is very familiar with your wishes and is aware that they have been selected to serve in this capacity.

Do Not Resuscitate Order

This is a legal document that instructs health professionals not to perform CPR in case of a stopped heart or stopped breathing.

Who needs to prepare advance directives?

Every person can benefit from preparing advance directives. A medical crisis or emergency can leave you unable to communicate your wishes for treatment at any age—advance directives are not just important for older adults. However, if you are an older adult and have not begun this process, we highly suggest you do so now. It can provide great peace of mind not only to you but to your family members and loved ones.


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