Life does not always go as planned but we should do our best to think ahead and prepare for the future as much as possible. One way we can do this is through advance care planning.

Advanced care planning involves making decisions about our health care and long-term care preferences and sharing those with our family and medical team. It can give us the peace of mind that our choices are known and will be respected. Advance care planning can also reduce stress for family members because they do not have to guess what we would want and make medical decisions on our behalf. Although an important planning process, one study shows that nearly two thirds of Americans have not completed a health care directive (Perelman, 2017).

Here are a few tips on how to get the advance care planning process started.

  1. Talk to Your Doctor
    If you are not sure where to start, consider talking about advance care planning with your physician, who knows your medical history and current health situation. Your physician can also provide insight on the impact of your family’s medical history on your current or future health care decisions.
  2. Think About Yourself
    Remember that advance care planning is all about what you want, so focus less on what other people may think or what choices they would make. Use your personal values and experiences to help you make decisions.
  3. Start the Conversation
    Although this is about your choices, they have to be shared with your loved ones in order to ensure your preferences are respected. Bring your family together to discuss planning for your future medical and long-term care needs. It is not easy to talk about health needs and end-of-life care, and it is easy assume they will “know” what your preferences are, but that is why it is important to start the conversation now.

Advance care planning can seem like an overwhelming task to undertake. However, it is an extremely important part of preparing for our future, and we can always ask friends, family, or health care professionals for help. For more information on what decisions and forms to keep in mind for advance care planning, please read the Advance Care Planning Fact Sheet.


Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. (2017, July 5). Two out of three U.S. adults have not completed an advance directive. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 21, 2020 from