What is Advance Care Planning?

No one can know when a serious illness or accident may happen. When it does, you may need someone to speak or make health care decisions for you. The best time to talk about what you want for medical care is before an illness or injury. This is when you have time to think, and talk with those you trust. If you plan now, you can make sure that the medical treatment you get in the future will be the treatment you would want. This process is known as Advance Care Planning.

Advance Care Planning is for everyone, not just those with a serious illness or those at the end of their life. An illness or injury can often come without warning. Most people never think there will be a time when they are unconscious or confused, but it can and does happen. When a patient cannot talk, it can be hard to know the right thing to do because the patient cannot tell a doctor what they want. Planning ahead can make sure you get care that follows your wishes, even if you cannot speak for yourself.

What are Advance Directives?

Advance Directives are your written statements that say how you want medical decisions to be made when you are not able to make those decisions for yourself. Advance Directives do not need to be notarized. You may have more than 1 kind of Advance Directive at a time. Filling an Advance Directive, and Advance Care Planning as a whole, does not require a lawyer.

Kinds of Advance Directives

Illinois law allows patients to make 4 kinds of advance directives:

Healthcare Power of Attorney (HPOA): A legal document that lets you choose someone you trust to be your medical decision-maker in case you cannot speak for yourself. Your medical decision-maker acts as your agent who knows your personal values and wishes for your medical care.

Living Will: A legal document you can use to say if you want to have death-delaying procedures withheld or withdrawn when you have been diagnosed with a terminal condition by a doctor.

Mental Health Treatment Declaration: This document allows a person with a mental illness to say whether or not they want electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) or psychotropic medicine, when they are unable to make decisions for themselves. It also allows them to decide if they wish to be admitted to a mental health facility for up to 17 days of treatment.

POLST (Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment): A health care provider’s order that states whether or not you want CPR and other life-sustaining treatments or medical interventions.

How to Get Started 

To get started with Advance Care Planning, ask your health care provider. To prepare for a conversation with your medical team you can use the Advance Care Planning Guide and documents below. For more information on the Healthcare Power of Attorney visit our HPOA page.

Resources to Help You Plan Ahead

The Advance Care Planning Guide can help you think about your goals, wishes and values. It can also help you think about the kind of health care you would want if you are not able to speak for yourself, in case of accident or illness. The guide also provides tips for talking with those you trust.

Advance Care Planning Guide: