Advance Care Planning - Heart 'n Home Hospice & Palliative Care, LLC

Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning
A Road Map for Your Loved Ones and Medical Team

Talking about end-of-life healthcare wishes is difficult even in the best of circumstances; however, making decisions for a loved one in an emergency is even more complicated.

End-of-life care planning is the process of making your healthcare wishes known, in the event that something should happen unexpectedly, leaving you unable to communicate your preferences and personal beliefs in healthcare. Part of the planning process includes completing advance directives, which is putting your preferences into writing.

Advance directives are written, legal instructions that are recognized and valid throughout the United States (Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney). Advance directives guide your healthcare provider and loved ones to make appropriate medical choices on your behalf. It is not necessary to have a lawyer fill out an advance directive with you. Once you complete it and have it signed by the required witness, it becomes valid. Also, advance directives do not expire, but if you complete a new one, the previous version is now unacceptable for use.

Another way of thinking about advance care planning is similar to planning a road trip. Most people would not travel to an unfamiliar place without doing some kind of pre-planning. For instance mapping your route, determining attractions and dining preferences, etc. Yet only 30 percent of Americans have a Living Will, a map that guides loved ones and your healthcare provider through the medical treatment you wish to receive if you are unable to communicate.

These open conversations can reduce anxiety about a situation we are all subject to face. If you have not completed your advance directives, now is the time to do so. To find resources on how to start this conversation visit

Kandice Dickinson
Public Relations Specialist
Heart ‘n Home Hospice & Palliative Care, LLC


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Advance Care Planning: Have You Had the Conversation?

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Have you ever thought about what would happen should you end up in a situation where you couldn’t make healthcare decisions for yourself?  What about your loved ones?  What if they were in a situation where they couldn’t express their wishes for healthcare? Who would you want to make those decisions for you?  Would they know your wishes for which treatments you would or would not want?

As difficult as it may be, it’s an important conversation; Advance Care Planning. Advance Care Planning involves learning about the decisions you may have to make during a crisis or at the end of your life and then preparing a plan for how you would want healthcare decisions made for you. Whether you don’t know how to bring up the subject, you don’t want to think about a loved one, or yourself, being in a position where you couldn’t make your own decisions, or you just haven’t thought about it; planning for end-of-life can be a difficult subject. Starting the conversation though is the first step. If not addressed, a healthcare crisis could occur and you’ll find yourself unable to express your desires.

Advance Directive

There are a few documents that are necessary for Advance Care Planning and one of them is the Advance Directive, or sometimes called a Living Will. Once you’ve started the conversation, you’ve thought about what is most important to you concerning your healthcare, and you know who you would want to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you were unable to, then you need to put it down on paper.  An Advance Directive is a form you would use to document all this information. To find your state’s form you can visit and visit their Advance Care Planning page.  You can find that information by clicking this quick link to the page.  Once there, you can click on your state and find your appropriate form. These forms are free and include step-by-step instructions that help you complete your Advance Directives.

When filling out your Advance Directives you will find that there are two main parts to it.  First, a section where you can record your wishes for healthcare treatments such as whether or not you want to go via ambulance to the hospital for treatment, whether or not you would be on a ventilator or other life-support,  or whether or not you want to be resuscitated.  This section helps you put down your wishes in writing.  The second section is the place where you would appoint who will be your healthcare surrogate; who will make decisions for your healthcare if you are unable to.  You will want to have a conversation with the person you choose and share with them your wishes and this document.

Completing your Advance Directive is a very important step.  It gets your wishes down on paper and it becomes a legal document. Once it’s completed the final step is to give a copy to your healthcare provider and keep a copy in a safe place. If at any time you want to adjust your form, you are welcome and encouraged to.  Just make sure to give your doctor all updated forms.

Benefits to completing Advance Directives

There are numerous benefits to having an Advance Directive. One main benefit is that it ensures that a person’s healthcare preferences are carried out.  Family members also report less stress during crisis situations because they already know their loved one’s desires.  Doctors and nurses are able to have meaningful conversations about care choices and it gives healthcare professionals time to proactively plan for those choices. Unwanted hospitalizations are avoided. And families receive comfort during the end-of-life process because they can rely on the knowledge that their loved one’s wishes were followed.

These reasons and more are enough to make anyone want to complete their own Advance Directive.  The first step is to START THE CONVERSATION!  If you need some help starting the conversation, Heart ‘n Home has an online resource called “Heart to Heart Conversations.  You can download a copy hereThe Conversation Project website also has some wonderful resources that are helpful in guiding these often difficult conversations.

Heart ‘n Home Hospice is committed to helping spread information about the benefits of Advanced Care Planning.  As National Healthcare Decisions Day approaches, we encourage you to complete your own paperwork and to start the conversation with your loved ones.  If you have a loved one who has a life-limiting illness or health declines due to age, we can help you find resources that will improve your quality of life.  Contact us today and we can help.

Advance Care Planning – Make Your End-of-Life Wishes Known

If something were to happen to you today, would your family and friends know your wishes? What will you be doing for National Healthcare Decisions Day, April 16th?

  • Completing my advance directive (Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare)
  • Updating my advance directive
  • Starting the Heart to Heart Conversation of advance care planning with my family/friends
  • Encourage my loved ones to complete their advance directives

Have you done your advance directive? If not, don’t worry because it’s not too late – 18 years or 80 years …  make your wishes known today!

Imagine the impact we can make if we all took a moment to share our advance care planning story.  Read Janice’s story and feel free to post your own on our blog.

For more information or support in completing your advance directive call Heart ‘n Home today at 1-800-HOSPICE.

The Beauty of a Plan by a Hospice Nurse

The Beauty of a Plan

It’s never too late to “make a plan” for the future. It is true that with some resolutions, we start out with big goals and usually end up with little gains. There is one area though, that planning ahead makes a world of difference in our own lives as well as the lives of those we love and care about.

Working in healthcare for over 40 years, I have seen up close and personal the effects of poor healthcare planning and the great benefits of careful attention paid to Advance Directives.  A life-imposing visit to the Emergency Room is NOT the time to think of all those things we should have taken care of while we were well. Right now is the time to make decisions tonational-healthcare-decisions-day-2014 guide our physicians, family members, and loved ones involved in our care. The beauty of Advance Directives is that YOUR wishes are made known prior to the chaos of all emergencies.

Advance Directives exist in two primary forms: 1) A Living Will and 2) A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. The forms are both available on-line and do not require an attorney to complete or a Notary Public to make them official.

A Living Will is a simple document to complete that outlines your healthcare choices at end of life and when you are no longer able to make those wishes known. It requires an open and frank discussion with your loved ones and your physician. It can clarify and express your desires when you cannot make those requests known to others. It does not come into effect until it has been determined that you are no longer capable of decision making for yourself.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare allows you to determine a stand-in decision maker if you are unable to speak yourself. They will have the same power as you would. This is usually a spouse, child, or trusted friend who knows your wishes and will carry them out for you, should it become necessary. Again, an open and frank discussion ahead of time makes a crisis much easier to deal with.

Both forms can be changed or updated upon desire of the person completing the documents at any time. It is important that your healthcare choices are known to your family and your physician to avoid unnecessary care or treatment that you would not choose for yourself.

When my mother died, all her documents were in order and it saved my three brothers and me the heartache, disharmony, and family conflict. I have also seen where this has not been the case and families have been torn apart because of lack of planning.  So fire up the internet,make some choices, and let your voice ring out … now, while it is clear and strong.

Related reading: National Healthcare Decisions Day-Make Your Wishes Known

Minda Jacobsen, RN, MSHA, CHPN
Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations

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