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Advance Care Planning

Updated March 07, 2022

Leacey Brown

SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist

Daughter reviewing paperwork with parents.
Courtesy: Canva

An advance care plan is the process of informal conversations with your family, friends and/or religious leaders. During this conversation, you describe the type of health care you would want in different medical emergencies.

Through this conversation, you identify one person who is able to make medical care decisions for you when you cannot communicate (i.e., health care agent or proxy).

The formal part of advance care planning involves completing a living will and durable power of attorney for health care. These forms are available from your primary care provider.

Starting the Conversation

Talk to Your Health Care Agent/Proxy

There are four topics you need to discuss with your health care agent or proxy.

  1. Withholding or withdrawing treatment in various situations.
  2. Death with dignity/aid in dying.
  3. Nutrition for persons in a permanent vegetative state.
  4. Issues of brain death and organ donation.

Self-Reflection Questions

  1. Describe your personal preferences for the Four Advance Care Planning Conversations.
  2. Describe the preferences of close friends and family for the Four Advance Care Planning Conversations.
  3. Describe your level of comfort discussing aging, dying and death.
  4. Do you and your family members have an advance care plan and a person identified to execute it?
  5. What questions do you have about advance care planning?