Being in control of your own health is something that’s important to people of all ages. That’s why it’s critical to create an advance care plan before your health begins to decline, or before a traumatic, life-limiting event occurs.
When you create an advance care plan, you have a written document that provides direction about the care you’d like to receive, as well as your wishes should certain health conditions arise.
An advance care plan isn’t just for someone who is advanced in age. Because tragedy can strike at any time, it’s important to put your desires for medical care in writing for your family to provide a better understanding of the care you’d like to receive and to improve your quality of life.
What is an advance care plan?
If you were to face a serious, life-threatening (or life-limiting) illness or condition – whether from deteriorating health or from a sudden traumatic event – an advance care plan makes your wishes known. It’s a document that spells out the care you want to receive based on your values, religious beliefs and your directives.
To create an advance care plan, you would sit down with a facilitator to create a written, legal document that spells out your desires for medical care in the event you cannot consciously make medical decisions, including at the end of your life. Because changes happen in your life, such as marriage, death of a spouse, or diagnosis with a serious medical condition, it’s a good idea to revisit your advance care plan at least every 10 years, if not more often.
Why should you document your wishes?
An advance care plan is about creating a plan for the “what ifs” that can happen in life. It’s a stressful time when a family member faces a sudden illness or tragedy. When that person isn’t able to communicate their healthcare wishes, it puts additional stress on the family.
When you create an advance care plan, you remove that burden from your loved ones. An advance care plan takes the guesswork out of your wishes and provides a document for your provider to refer to in order to best care for you.
No one takes joy in discussing the end of their life, but having an advance care plan is a critical first step in having a conversation with your loved ones about wishes. Make sure to give a copy of your advance care plan to your loved ones or tell them where you keep it. You should also give your advance care plan to your primary care provider.
Why doesn’t everyone have an advance care plan?
Oftentimes, people simply don’t know that they can create an advance care plan for themselves. Others think that an advance care plan is only for the elderly, or people with serious illnesses.
Each state also handles advance care plans differently, so there’s not a clear, unified path that everyone can follow when creating one. Fortunately, Indiana updated the law around advance care directives in 2021 to streamline the process and create a single advance directive. Your plan can include things such as:
- Living will
- Healthcare representative
- Healthcare power of attorney
- Do not resuscitate order (DNR)
- Organ and tissue donation
- Physician orders for scope of treatment (POST)
To learn more about Indiana’s law on advance care directives, visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s Advance Directives Resource Center website.
Ready to create an advance care plan?
If you’re ready to create an advance care plan, our facilitators at Goshen Health can help. You can request a virtual appointment or call us at 574-364-2288 to find out more about our planning services.