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Gather information for advance care planning

This section will help you to gather information for advance care planning. This information is an important part of your long-term care plan.

You buy insurance to prepare for moments you hope will never happen. Doing so helps make sure you and your family are financially prepared. Advance care planning offers a similar peace of mind that your family and physician will honor your preferences about life-sustaining treatments.

Advance care planning refers to legal documents that lay out your wishes for medical care in case you are unable to make or communicate your decisions directly. In Minnesota, the term used most frequently for these documents is a health care directive. A health care directive spells out if you would like artificial life support if you become unconscious or are unable to speak for yourself. It also details other types of health care you prefer under these situations.

Health care directive

It is important to plan while you are healthy and able to state your wishes. When you prepare a health care directive, you prevent confusion and make sure your wishes are carried out, as you would like them to be. This also helps your family know exactly what you want so they can support your wishes. Despite its importance, only 30 percent of Americans have a health care directive in place.

Doctors consult your health care directive when they need to decide on treatment when you are unable to tell them what you want. Without a directive, it will be up to your family to make health care decisions. They may not know your wishes about medical care and critical end-of-life decisions.

Because your situation and wishes may change over time, it is important to review and update your health care directive from time to time. Be sure to discuss your plan with your family so they understand and are comfortable with your wishes.

Any lawyer who specializes in elder law is able to help you prepare the health care directive although it is not required to use a lawyer. If you need help to complete a health care directive, you may connect with a lawyer in your community who specializes in health care directives.

Health care agent

A health care directive allows you to appoint an agent to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do that yourself. When you decide who you want to appoint as your health care agent, is important to choose a competent and trustworthy person. You want to choose someone who knows you very well and is able to make the health decision you would make if you could. There is a section in the health care directive where you can name the person.

Steps after your directive is completed

Here are some important actions to keep in mind as you complete your health care directive.

  1. Talk to your doctor. It is important to speak with your doctor so they understand how you feel. You need to ask your doctor if their values allow them to honor your wishes.
  2. Talk to your family. Talking with family eliminates potential family conflicts and may make them more comfortable if they need to make difficult decisions.
  3. After you have completed your health care directive, give copies to your doctor, health care agent if you choose one, close family members and others who might need to know your wishes.

The Minnesota Board on Aging provides a booklet, called Planning Ahead, that describes and explains the legal and related issues that older adults fact. 

Honoring Choices Minnesota is a statewide initiative that encourages families and communities to have discussions about end-of-life care choices.

Step 3: Pay for long-term care


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