Advance care planning series: Think

First in a four-part series outlining the basics of advance care planning for end of life care: Think, Talk, Choose, Complete


It may not be at the top of your “things that sound fun to do” list, but according to the experts at the Institute for Human Caring, advance care planning often brings a sense of relief that more than makes up for any discomfort you feel when considering the topic.

Advance care planning is the process of sharing your priorities about end of life care with your loved ones and your healthcare team. It gives you a voice in how you are treated—even when you’re critically ill, injured or can’t care for yourself—by detailing your wishes ahead of time. 

The Institute for Human Caring focuses on whole person care that takes all aspects of your health—physical, mental, and emotional—into account. This carries over into all areas of your healthcare, including planning for every stage of your life. The process is broken down into four steps: Think, Talk, Choose, Complete.

This month we’ll look at the first step: Think.

  • How have the people you know been cared for at the end of their lives?
  • What would you do differently? What would you keep the same?
  • What makes life meaningful for you? What do find most important?

Asking yourself the hard questions takes soul searching and careful thought. It isn’t always easy to know where to begin. The following is a good place to start.

  1. What will be most important to you when you are dying? No pain? Being at home? Family present?
  2. Will you want to use life-sustaining measures if you have a terminal illness? And under what conditions? What if you have a chronic illness or disability like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease?
  3. Will you always want to know the truth about your condition or would you rather not be aware of all the details?
  4. Are there any treatments you know you don’t want? Artificial breathing? Feeding assistance? CPR?
  5. Will your feelings change depending on the type or severity of your health issue? Do you want treatment if death is imminent? When do you want to discontinue treatment?
  6. Do you have limitations to your physical and mental health that will affect your health care decisions?
  7. Will you want to be placed in a nursing home?
  8. Will you want hospice care at home or hospitalization at the end of life?
  9. How involved do you want to be in making decisions about your overall healthcare and treatment?
  10. Do you want to be an organ donor?
  11. Who do you want to make decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself?

For a helpful guide that will get you thinking about the tough questions, download this Values Worksheet for End of Life.

Dr. Ira Byock of the Institute for Human Caring discusses the importance of advance care planning and the impact it has on end of life care.

Thinking about end of life care doesn’t have to be stressful or depressing. It can actually give you and your family a sense of comfort for the future. Going through the process to outline what you want and what’s most important to you provides a blueprint for care that gives your loved ones and your healthcare team valuable direction when it’s needed most.

Find a doctor

If you are looking for a primary care doctor that can help you sort through the process of advance care planning, you can search for one that’s right for you in our provider directory. Or you can find one using a regional directory below:






Related resources

Institute for Human Caring

6 Tips for Creating an Advanced Directive

Advanced Directives: Our Stories

Advance Care Directives - Good for Everyone

About the Author

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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