Advance care planning

Advance care planning and health care directives

Advance care planning allows you to make your voice heard so your wishes are followed. You can provide clarity and understanding among family members, your doctor and your health care team. Advance care planning involves these important steps:

Choose a health care agent – This person makes health care decisions for you if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

Engage in conversations – Discuss your values and wishes about future health care with your health care agent, doctor and other important people in your life.

Complete a health care directive – This is a written plan for your future medical treatments.

If you do not have a written health care directive, you will still receive medical treatment. Your health care team will listen to what people close to you say about your treatment wishes.

Advance care planning for COVID-19

We recognize that many of you may be worried about COVID-19 and how it may affect you or your family’s health. Advance care planning has long been an important element to our patient-centered care. Particularly during this crisis, it becomes even more important for us to know about your values and priorities for care.

If you have questions about how this virus may affect you or the decisions that you may need to make if you became very sick, we recommend that you talk with your doctor. This is especially important if you are over 65 or have an underlying medical condition.

We also encourage everyone 18 and over to complete a health care directive. You can find the forms needed as well as a variety of supporting resources throughout this page.

Additionally, we also recommend looking at The Conversation Project’s COVID-19 handout (PDF).

Creating a directive

Advance care planning for future health care choices is important to do while you are healthy and able to make your own decisions. We recommend adults 18 years and older start the advance care planning process. We also recommend you review and update your health care directive whenever you have a significant change in health status or life circumstances.

Before creating a health care directive, think about what matters most to you. There are no right or wrong answers. Begin by asking:

  • Who do I trust to make decisions for me if I can no longer make my own health care decisions?
  • What are my values and beliefs about life and death, and quality of life?
  • What do I need my doctor to know about me?

By writing a health care directive, you can:

  • Make your voice heard so your wishes are followed
  • Prevent confusion and disagreement among family members and your health care team who want to follow your wishes

Health care directive forms

Short form health care directives

Suitable for young, healthy people, those with language barriers, individuals who only wish to appoint a health care agent or people who simply prefer a short version.

Long form health care directives

Suitable for all ages, particularly recommended for those over age 50 or individuals with a chronic, progressive disease.

Practical and legal considerations for your health care directive

No matter your age or health, writing your wishes in a health care directive and choosing a health care agent are key to preparing for an unpredictable future. A health care directive is your written plan for future medical treatments. It’s also is the document in which you can identify someone to communicate your wishes if you are unable to do so – this person is your health care agent.

You may specify if, how and when you would want to:

  • Continue treatment to try to stay alive
  • Stop or withhold certain treatment to die naturally
  • Receive comfort care (medical or spiritual care) to experience a certain quality of life

You don’t need a lawyer to complete a health care directive, and you don’t have to use a specific form. However, to be legal, the document you create must:

  • State your name and be in writing and dated
  • Be signed by you or someone you authorize to sign for you - you must do this at a time when you can understand and communicate your wishes
  • Have two witnesses or a notary public verify your signature

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

A health care directive is the written plan you make for your future medical treatments. A health care directive also is the document in which you can identify someone to communicate your wishes if you are unable to do so – this person is your health care agent, also known as a power of attorney for health care. A health care directive describes the medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you would or would not want if you were unable to speak for yourself.

No. However, completing a health care directive helps to make sure your family and health care team follow your wishes. It is also valuable to have a quality conversation with the important people in your life about your values and goals for care across the continuum of life.

You must be 18 years old to create a health care directive. The document must:

  • Be in writing and dated
  • 'State your name
  • Identify a health care agent or articulate wishes for life sustaining treatment – or both
  • Be signed by you or someone you authorize to sign for you. You must do this at a time when you can understand and communicate your health care wishes.
  • Have a notary public or two witnesses verify your signature

You may be as specific or general as you wish. But specific statements can be useful to:

  • Clarify your goals for medical care for certain situations, such as permanent injury to your brain
  • Help guide your health care agent or doctor and other members of your care team in making decisions about your health care treatment

A health care agent is a person who will make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make or communicate decisions yourself. A health care agent makes sure your health care team follows what you specify in your health care directive.

Your health care agent should be someone that you know well and trust to follow your wishes, such as a family member or friend. Your health care agent cannot be your doctor or another member of your health care team, unless your doctor or health care team member is a family member or you give reasons for choosing this person in your health care directive.

Talking with your doctor about your health care wishes is important but not a legal requirement. Your doctor can check that your health care directive is clear and complete. Your doctor also can confirm if your health care team will follow your wishes.

Give copies of your signed health care directive to your health care agent, your doctor and health care team, family members and anyone else you want to know about your future health care wishes. Keep the original document easily available at your home.

If you wish to send your completed health care directive to your health care team by postal mail, you may send it to Health Information Management (HIM) wherever you receive your care.

Amery Hospital & Clinic and Westfields Hospital & Clinic
Westfields Hospital (Health Information Management)
535 Hospital Rd.
New Richmond, WI 54017

HealthPartners, Methodist, Park Nicollet, Regions and TRIA
Health Information Management (HIM)
3931 Louisiana Ave Ste W110
Mailstop: 71D01l
St Louis Park, MN 55426

Hudson Hospital & Clinic
Hudson Hospital (Health Information Management)
411 Stageline Rd.
Hudson, WI 54016

Hutchinson Health
Hutchinson Health (Health Information Management)
1095 Highway 15 S.
Hutchinson, MN 55350

Lakeview Hospital & HealthPartners Clinic Stillwater
Lakeview Hospital (Health Information Management)
927 Churchill St. W.
Stillwater, MN 55082

Olivia Hospital & Clinic
Health Information Management (HIM)
100 Healthy Way
Olivia, MN 56277

Your health care directive lasts until you change or cancel it – which you may do at any time. We recommend reviewing and updating your health care directive every few years or with a change in health or circumstance.

Care planning resources