Skip to Content

Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning is a thoughtful process you carry out before a health crisis occurs or you become unable to speak for yourself. It involves exploring, communicating about and documenting your wishes for the type of future medical care and treatment you would want. 

Advance Care Planning is a process of reflection and communication. It leads to development of a personal Advance Health Care Directive, a legal document intended to guide medical decisions.

  • Advance Care Planning involves exploring your wishes, expressing your wishes and preparing others to honor your wishes.
  • It is a conversation that takes place over time and is better done in the living room rather than a hospital room.

The Advance Care Directive

An Advance Health Care Directive provides a way to make your health care wishes known when you are no longer able to communicate your choices.

  • It allows you to specify what kinds of treatments you might want under certain circumstances.
  • It also allows you to name a willing person(s) — if you choose to do so — as your health care agent to speak on your behalf as if they were you and work with your doctor to make decisions for your care.
  • A completed directive is useful only if it is available when it is needed. It should be readily accessible and shared, at a minimum, with your doctor and health care agent, not kept secret or stored away.

Although an Advance Health Care Directive is a legal document, you do not need an attorney to complete one. However, to make your directive legal, it needs to be to be signed by two witnesses or notarized by a licensed Notary Public. Witnesses must be different from your health care agent(s).

Because situations often change, it’s important to regularly review and update your Advance Health Care Directive and advise your doctor(s) and health care agent of changes. Some people mark a memorable date on their calendars to review their directive annually.

In California there is no one official Advance Health Care Directive form, so you can select the one you best like to document your wishes.

Advance Health Care Directive
English | Spanish(PDF: 56 Kb)
Source: Community Network for Appropriate Technologies.

Advance Health Care Directive (PDF: 495 Kb)
Source: Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa.