Advance care planning
You know the kinds of foods you like, so when you go to a restaurant, you can usually make your choices without much difficulty. However, when it comes to making choices related to future health care, it can be more challenging. You may not be sick now or even want to think or talk about what you’d want if you do get sick and are unable to make decisions. But, just like it’s helpful to know what’s on the menu, there are benefits to becoming informed and thinking in advance about your future health care.
What is advance care planning?
Advance care planning is the process of clarifying your values and your preferences for future health care. It also means identifying who you would like to speak for you if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. This person is your “health care agent.” An advance directive is the legal document that you should use to tell others what your preferences are and who you have chosen to be your health care agent.
The advance directive
In the future, something may happen and you won’t be able to make decisions for yourself. Maybe you’re unconscious or too ill. Your health care team will use your advance directive to contact your health care agent. Together, they’ll look to your preferences on the advance directive as a guide to decisions about your care. Have you thought about what is important to you? Or what kind of medical care or mental health care you might want in the future? Have you thought about who you would want to be your health care agent? Are you ready to make your choices? If so, it’s time for you to complete your directive.
Facing a serious illness now?
If you are facing a serious illness right now, you may want to choose from a different menu – one that addresses your current health care goals. Talk with your health care team about what is important to you now. Your doctors can help you decide which treatments and services would best help you reach your current health care goals. Based on this conversation, they can write medical orders to ensure your treatment plan is based on your goals.
Need more time to read the menu?
There are many advance care planning resources for Veterans and their loved ones. VA’s website for older Veterans, www.va.gov/Geriatrics, has an entire section on Advance Care Planning with links to the VA advance directive form. VA also offers podcasts on advance care planning, choosing a health care agent, how to be a health care agent and setting health care goals. Sharing information about advance directives, choosing a health care agent and how to have a conversation about advance care planning with your loved ones is of value to EVERYONE, Veterans and civilians, regardless of age or health status.
VA doctors can help you decide the treatments to help you reach your health care goals.
If you want help considering what matters to you, take a look at this Values Worksheet. For more information, talk with your VA social worker. If you are facing a serious illness and want more information, you can review Setting Health Care Goals: A Guide for People with Health Problems.
Make your choices now!
Make your choices now. Your preferences and priorities may change over time or as your health status changes. It’s okay to change your mind and make different decisions. You can complete a new advance directive whenever you want. Just let us know. We are here to serve you.