Why You Need an Advance Care Plan

Suppose for a moment that you are involved in an accident or become ill. As a result, you are unable to answer questions or express your wishes about your medical care. Who would you want to speak for you or make treatment decisions for you?

It is never too early to put your wishes down on paper. The time to get organized and make your wishes known is before a medical emergency occurs. Planning now for the future is an important step toward making sure you get the medical care you would want if unable to speak for yourself, and doctors and family members are left to make the decisions for you. The way to live well is to plan well, and advance care planning can help give you and those close to you some peace of mind in a medical crisis.

What is advance care planning?

Advance care planning is the process of thinking about and sharing your wishes for future healthcare should you require a hospital stay or become ill and not able to speak for yourself. You can use an advance care plan (also known as advance directives) to explain your choices for healthcare based on your personal values, preferences and discussions with your loved ones.

Some things to know about advance care planning include:

  • An advance care plan (ACP) is a legal document that allows you to share your wishes in writing with your family and healthcare team.
  • An advance care plan does not need to be notarized. All you need to do is sign your forms in front of two competent adult witnesses or in front of a notary who is authorized by the State of Texas. For information on how to legally complete your paperwork visit Texas Health’s website.
  • Doctors and healthcare providers will honor out-of-state ACP paperwork if it meets with the legal requirements of the state in which you are located.
  • The latest dated document is recognized if there is any conflict in paperwork.
  • Access to medical care will not change if there is no advance care paperwork.
  • Having an advance care plan will not affect your insurance policies or premiums.
  • An ACP does not cover financial matters.
  • You have an advocate with Texas Health to help make your wishes known.

Types of advance care plans

In Texas, there are several parts to an advance care plan. You can fill out paperwork for one or more, depending on your needs and wishes.

Medical Power of Attorney. This paperwork allows you to specify a person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Living Will (also known as a Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates). This allows you to provide directives to doctors and family members or a proxy for providing, withdrawing or withholding medical care if an injury or illness cannot be cured.

Out-of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Order. A do-not-resuscitate order allows a capable adult to refuse certain care in non-hospital settings, including hospital emergency rooms and outpatient clinics or doctor’s offices.

In-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate Order. An in-hospital DNR allows a capable adult to refuse CPR if their breathing or heart stops while they are in the hospital.

Declaration for Mental Health Treatment. This allows a court to determine when you become incapacitated, and when this wish becomes effective. The paperwork expires after three years if not needed.

Keep your signed original ACP paperwork in a safe place in your home. Do not store your forms in a safe deposit box. Remember to share copies with your healthcare provider and your loved ones, and take copies with you for a planned hospital stay.

Start the conversation

You may never need your advance care plan, and that would be a good thing. But if you are not able to make your health care wishes known, you will be glad your advance care plan is there for you and your loved ones. Remember as you complete your forms to:

  • Reflect on your values, your beliefs and what is important to you.
  • Talk with your family and those close to you about your future healthcare choices.
  • Prepare to share your advance care plan with your family and healthcare team.

Guidance on how to complete your advance care plan is available from Texas Health, your healthcare provider or your faith community leader. Visit TexasHealth.org for more information.

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