Five Steps for Advance Care Planning

Advance care directives are directions you give to your loved ones and medical professionals outlining your healthcare wishes in the event you are unable to articulate them yourself. If you haven’t yet shared your advance care wishes, follow these five steps to ensure your healthcare choices and desires are communicated to those who will make decisions for you if you are incapacitated.

  1. Learn about the most common forms of advance care directives.
    • A living will gives you the power to designate what types of health care intervention you want or don’t want should you become incapacitated and unable to state your wishes at the time of your healthcare crisis.
    • A Medical Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy, allows you to designate someone you trust to make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
    • In addition, in New York State, a MOLST, or Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment, complements other advanced directives. It lays out specific medical orders that apply as soon as you consent to the orders and a physician signs the document.
  2. Talk about your health care wishes with your family, friends and doctor. Although you may think that your loved ones and physician know what you would want if you were incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself, that is not necessarily the case. You can ease their minds as well as your own by speaking frankly with them about what types of treatment you would or wouldn’t want. It also helps to give them a general idea of where you fit into the healthcare continuum between those who wish to be allowed to die without medical intervention and those who want every possible medical intervention to be tried all the way until the very end.
  3. Select a person to speak for you in the event you are unable to speak for yourself. This person, called a healthcare proxy, can be a family member or a friend—or someone else you trust understands your wishes and will make decisions in line with them.
  4. Put your choices in writing on the New York State Health Care Proxy and Living Will forms. You can download copies of these forms here.
  5. Make copies of your advance directives and give them to your decision maker and your doctor. Keep the original documents in a safe and accessible place, and tell others where you put them.