As families gather this holiday season, they often find themselves in some uncomfortable conversations: politics, religion, or when they plan to have kids. For some, end-of-life planning can be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be. It is important to to communicate your wishes to family.

We at NHPCO are here to help you and your family make informed decisions and take the steps to make sure your wishes are followed at end of life. 

This process of discussing and determining your preferences for health care is called Advance Care Planning. Advance care planning is a process, not an event, and is planning for future care based on a person’s values, beliefs, preferences, and specific medical issues. An advance directive is the record of that process. It is both an umbrella term for defining and expressing how one wants to live and be treated and for state approved advance directive documents which allow you to specify those things and usually to appoint someone (healthcare power of attorney) to speak when you are unable to speak for yourself. 

The purpose of any advance directive is to enable you to speak for yourself and to let other people know what choices you have made and what is important to you. It is a really good idea to speak to those close to you as you are preparing your advance directive. And you are only half done until you discuss and share your advance directive with others and store your document in a safe and accessible place.  

The first steps in preparing an advance directive are to think about what is important to you, to talk with your loved ones, and to inform them about your health. Armed with this information, you can make choices about your future treatment and share them with others, both in person and in writing. From there you can find the best way to store and retrieve your advance directive as necessary. 

Many states have different forms which constitute an Advance Directive. Make sure you are aware of the forms which are enforceable in your state. Find the appropriate documentation for you

Learn more about end-of-life care options, advance care planning, advance directives, and more at Caringinfo.org

As you approach these conversations this holiday season, remember that advance care planning is a process, it’s ok not to have all the answers right now, and your preferences may evolve over time.  Be sure to revisit these decisions periodically. It isn’t easy but your family will thank you.