Advance care planning series: Complete

Last in a four-part series outlining the basics of advance care planning: Think, Talk, Choose, Complete


Advance care planning is not always an easy process. If you’ve been following along over the last couple months as we outlined the process, we hope you have the foundation you need to get started.

  • Think about the type of care you’d want if you become seriously injured or ill.
  • Talk to your loved ones and healthcare team about your wishes, priorities and goals for treatment.
  • Choose someone to speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself.
  • Complete an advance directive.

This month we’ll show you how to take all the soul searching, planning and discussion you’ve been doing and complete the steps to create and share an advance directive.

Final step—complete your advance directive

An advance directive is a document that details the kind of care you’d want to receive if you become seriously injured or ill and allows you to designate someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do it for yourself. 

The experts at the Institute for Human Caring put together an Advance Directive Toolkit that walks you through the steps of naming decision-makers, choosing your care options and filling out the forms that let others know your wishes.

Each state has its own guidelines and forms. You can find and download the forms you need here.

For each state listed, you’ll see two versions of the advance directive forms. The long form version is a full-length advance directive that names your decision makers and outlines your preferences for care. The short version is ideal if you’ve determined your decision makers but are not ready to commit to care preferences.

An advance directive is a document that details the kind of care you’d want to receive if you become seriously injured or ill and allows you to designate someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do it for yourself.

Once you’ve completed the appropriate form, make several copies and distribute them to the people who need this vital information, including:

Share photocopies when you distribute your advance directive and keep the original in a safe, convenient place. We don’t recommend keeping your advance directive in a safe deposit box because it could limit access in an emergency situation.

Making changes

As your life or circumstances change you may want to edit your advance directive. In fact, it’s a good idea to review your document when you’re going through a major life change to make sure you have the same wishes and goals.

The Institute of Human Caring suggests you review your advance directive when going through what they call the Five Ds:

  • Decade—as you start each new decade of your life
  • Death—when a loved one dies
  • Divorce—may prompt changes
  • Diagnosis—if it’s determined you have a serious health issue
  • Decline—when you experience a serious decline in your physical or medical condition

The best way to make changes is to fill out a new advance directive form, including any signatures or notarization that your state requires. Don’t forget to save and distribute the updated version to the people who need the most recent information.

Find a doctor

If you are looking for a primary care doctor who listens with empathy and understanding when you talk about the way you want to handle your advance care planning, you can search for one in our provider directory. Or use one of the regional directories below:






Share your thoughts on advance care planning at #aging with readers @psjh.

Related resources

Advance care planning series: Think

Advance care planning series: Talk

Advance care planning series: Choose 

Institute for Human Caring

The Conversation Project

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.

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From how to identify and treat heart diseases to exercise tips to maintain an active lifestyle, the Providence Senior's Health team is committed to providing real-world advice that is hyper-relevant to helping those 65+ find ways stay young at heart

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