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Commonly Asked Questions

About Advance Care Planning

How can I talk about these issues with my family?
Plan for yourself first and let your family know what you want. Tell them you don’t want them feeling the burden of making the decisions for you. Then ask them to tell you what they want.

Who do I talk to?
Talk to those who are close to you and most likely to be involved in decision making if you are very ill. Just because you have a close relationship does not necessarily mean you know what your loved one thinks or wants for future medical care.

What would I talk about?

  1. Who would make decisions for you and how they would make these decisions? Make sure whomever you choose to represent you not only knows what you want, but is able to make complex decisions in difficult situations.
  2. Consider what your goals for medical treatment would be if you had a serious, permanent injury to your brain. How bad would such an injury be for you to say, “Don’t use medical treatments to keep me alive in that state.” Many people simply say, “Don’t keep me alive if I am a vegetable.” If you feel that way, can you describe what it would mean to you to “be a vegetable?”

Do I need to talk with my physician?
When possible it is important for you to talk with your physician to make sure your planning is clear, complete, and will be supported by your health care providers.

About Advance Directives

When is an advance directive used?
As long as you are capable of making your own decisions, you remain in control of your own medical care. If you’re unable to make your decisions, your plans in the advance directive would guide decision making.

Can my advance directive be changed?
Yes. But you, and only you, can change your advance directives at any time, as long as you are capable of making decisions. If you do fill one out, a copy can become part of your medical file.

What if I am injured or become ill when I am away from home?
The best way to ensure that you receive the type of care you want is to discuss your choices with the person who will represent you and make sure they have a copy of your advance directive. A wallet card, indicating you have an advance directive, is also available.

What happens in an emergency?
In the event of an emergency, life-sustaining measures may be started, possibly before your medical record is available. Treatment can be stopped if it is discovered that it’s not what you would have wanted.

Do I have to have a lawyer to complete an advance directive?
No. The law does not require you to have an attorney. The choice is yours.

Does my health care agent also have control over my finances?
No. Your agent can only make health care decisions for you when you are unable to communicate for yourself.

©Copyright 2010-2013. All Rights Reserved. Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation, Inc. Materials developed by Respecting Choices® The name "Honoring Choices Virginia" is under license from East Metro Medical Society Foundation.