Advance care planning 101

ApexBlog - Advance Care Planning 101

We all know that planning for the future is important, but in the case of advance care planning, it can also be difficult. Advance care planning includes making decisions about how health needs should be handled if a loved one cannot communicate in the case of a sudden accident or serious illness. An advance care plan takes away stress about the future so you can live boldly in the present.

What is advance care planning?

Advance care planning is the process of thinking and talking about what kind of care you’d like to receive if there is a change in health that leaves you unable to communicate or make your own treatment decisions. This planning process includes naming the people who will serve as a healthcare proxy to make decisions for your loved one and writing down choices for the medical treatment they would like to receive.

Why you should help your loved one create an advance care plan

It can be stressful if you are trying to figure out the best way to care for your loved one in the middle of a medical crisis. An advance care plan can ease those worries by ensuring your loved one’s wishes will be honored in:

  • End of life care
  • Chronic illness
  • Alzheimer’s and Dementia care

Advance care planning can be done at any time in life, but it’s a good idea to create your plan while your loved one is healthy. Starting these difficult conversations is easier when they can take time to think and communicate clearly, so we recommend planning now.

How to help create an advance care plan

Step one: Have an honest conversation

The first step is the hardest part! You must have an honest conversation with your loved one about how they want to be cared for if they need treatment for chronic illnesses or end of life care. A great resource that we recommend is this guide from the Conversation Project.

Some questions to ask include, “What matters most to you at the end of your life?” and “As a patient, how much would you like to know about your condition?” The goal of this step is to identify what will preserve the best quality of life for your loved one.

Step two: Complete an advance health care directive form

An advance health care directive form formalizes the planning your loved one has done so far. Atrium Health explains that there are three possible elements in an advance directive:

In North Carolina, an advance directive includes:

  1. A healthcare power of attorney
  2. A living will
  3. Advance instruction for mental health treatment

In South Carolina, an advance directive includes:

  1. A healthcare power of attorney
  2. A living will

Healthcare power of attorney empowers a person or people to make medical decisions on your loved one’s behalf. A living will expresses their wishes to receive or deny life prolonging treatments. Advance instruction for mental health treatment allows them to accept or refuse different mental health treatment methods.

Advance care directives may also include a Provider Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Form which vary by state:

Formalizing your loved one’s plan makes sure all caregivers will know and follow it.

Step three: Share documents and update as needed

Once the plan is complete, your loved one can share their advance directive with their doctor, power of attorney, and family. Update the plan as needed. Atrium Health recommends your loved one update their advance directive every 10 years or when they experience a significant life change. A significant life change includes:

  • Diagnosis with a serious illness
  • Marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse
  • Changes to their healthcare proxy’s health

We know that having these difficult conversations is never easy. Just remember that the ApexHealth team is always here to help answer any questions you may have. Give us a call at (844) 279-0508 (TTY: 711) to speak with an ApexAssistant. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30 and seven days a week 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31.


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