Advance care planning is not just about old age. At any age, a medical crisis could leave someone too ill to make his or her own healthcare decisions. Even if you are not sick now, making healthcare plans for the future is an important step toward making sure you get the medical care you would want, even when doctors and family members are making the decisions for you.
More than one out of four older Americans face questions about medical treatment near the end of life but are not capable of making those decisions. These resources will help you to think about, discuss and share your wishes with others. Knowing how you would decide might take some of the burden off family and friends.
Advance care planning involves learning about the types of decisions that might need to be made, considering those decisions ahead of time, and then letting others know about your preferences, often by putting them into an advance directive. An advance directive is a legal document that goes into effect only if you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. This could be the result of disease or severe injury—no matter how old you are. It helps others know what type of medical care you want. It also allows you to express your values and desires related to end-of-life care. You might think of an advance directive as a living document—one that you can adjust as your situation changes because of new information or a change in your health.
Forms are available through the Tennessee Department of Health Advanced Directive Resources.
The Gift Initiative is a community education collaborative in Tennessee led by Alive Hospice with partners from Vanderbilt University, Saint Thomas Health, Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation and a growing list of individuals who recognize the critical need for education about advance planning for serious illness and end-of-life care.