Advance care plan: A checklist for the future

Elderly couple looking at a laptop

Do you and your loved ones have an advance care plan?

An advance care plan spells out decisions you’d like to make if you can’t speak for yourself due to an illness or accident, based on your personal values, preferences, and discussions with family and loved ones.

A health care directive is a legal document that spells out these decisions and goes into effect only if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Making an advance care plan is especially helpful for older adults or those facing a terminal illness but is valuable for people at any age. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) encourages people to create an advance care plan and health care directive when healthy and able.

  • Define your health care power of attorney or health proxy—a trusted family member, friend, or advisor who will make your health care decisions if you can’t.
  • Decide what kind of end-of-life care you are comfortable with.
  • Write a living will and include all of your decisions on end-of-life care, and have it notarized.
  • Tell key family members where you keep copies of your health care directive.

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