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Advance care planning in three easy steps

Learn how to make your wishes known if you can't speak for yourself. 

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Choosing care for your final days can seem overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. There are basically three steps to making sure that your wishes are carried out if you can't speak for yourself.

Step 1: Talk to your loved ones

Help them understand what quality of life means to you. Talk about what could happen, and how you want to be cared for.

Choose someone to be the main person to speak for you. This is called a health advocate. (Choose a backup, too.) It should be someone who:

  • Knows you well
  • Is calm in a crisis
  • Understands what you want
  • Can ask questions and speak up for you
  • Can reassure and talk with your family

Talk to your advocate about:

  • What's important to you 
  • When you want to stop getting care and get comfort care only
  • The things that bring you comfort

Step 2: Decide

What do you value? Do you want to live as long as you can? Or, is quality of life more important? What if you become paralyzed or fall into a life-long coma and need to be on a ventilator? Would you want that?

For some people, staying alive as long as possible is the most important thing. Maybe they want to attend a family event, like a grandchild's wedding. An advance directive can help to make that possible. 

Other people have a clear idea about when they would no longer want to prolong their life. An advance directive can help with that, too.

Step 3: Write it down

You've thought about your choices and talked them over with your doctor and loved ones. Next, it’s time to fill out the advance care planning worksheet. You should also complete your state’s advance directive.

You could also make a video, and talk about your wishes in your own words. Videos don't replace an advance directive. But they can be helpful for your loved ones.

Remember, your plan doesn’t have to be perfect. You can change it at any time. The important thing is to get started today.

Make your advanced care plan today

Start planning now to get the care you want later.


  • Optum

The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.