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Doc, am I too young for advance care planning?

Having a plan in place is a wise choice.

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Dear doctor,

My mom is 90 and still active, but we have an advance care plan for her. Now she’s saying that I need one, too. I’m a healthy 65-year-old. And I obviously come from great genes. I don’t need anything in writing until I’m older, right?


Dear Steve,

You're blessed to still have your mom in your life and that she’s made some important end-of-life plans. You know moms — they’re usually right. And she’s right about the need for advance care planning, too.

Car accidents, crises and sudden illness can happen to anyone at any time. That’s why every adult should have an advance care plan.


Advance care planning can be a gift you give yourself and your family. It's about making your wishes known if you can’t speak for yourself.

Most of us don't relish making such a plan. But too often, if a person doesn't, there are questions, confusion or arguments. Your loved ones won’t know what to do unless you have something in writing.

That’s why it’s important to complete an advance care plan. It includes everything from the kind of music that comforts you to what kind of care you want. 

Give a copy to your loved ones, your doctor, your hospital and anyone else who needs it. 

You may want to look over your plan from time to time. Life and your values can change. But for the most part, you can rest easy knowing that your wishes are known. Having them in writing makes it more likely they'll be carried out.

In good health, 

Joshua Jacobs, MD, FAAFP
National Medical Director, Provider Intelligence
Clinical Performance, Optum Care

Terms used in advance care planning

In end-of-life planning, different terms are used to describe similar things. Here’s a quick guide to get you started.

When you do advance care planning, you complete an advance directive. It's also known as a living will. 

You may decide to ask someone to be your durable power of attorney for health care. (Other names include health advocate or health proxy.) This person decides your care when you can't speak for yourself. 

We have a tool to help you get started planning: our no-cost advance care planning worksheet.

There are two main parts in an advance directive: a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. You can include other things, like use of CPR, donating organs, etc. 

Remember: an advance directive is only used if you are in danger of dying and need help staying alive, but you can’t speak for yourself. You use an advance directive to spell out exactly what kind of medical care you want. It must be in writing. 

Each state has different forms and rules. In some states, you must have a witness or notary sign the form. You can ask a lawyer to help you prepare the form. But, in general, most people don't need one.

This is a written, legal paper. It's also called an advance directive. It spells out what medical care you want and don't want to be used to keep you alive. It can also include what you want to have for pain, and whether you want to donate organs. 

This is someone who decides your care when you can't speak for yourself. You choose this person, and make sure he or she knows your wishes. 

Other similar terms include durable power of attorney for health care or health advocate. 

This stands for “do not resuscitate.” It means that you don't want CPR if your heart stops beating or you stop breathing. 

To set up a DNR order, tell your doctor what you want. He or she will put the order in your medical record.

April 16 is National Health Care Decisions Day

It's the perfect time to start your advance care planning. Learn why it's important to plan ahead.


  • National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
  • 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.