older black man and woman work on laptop computer filling out their health care directive


Make your health care wishes known with advance care planning

  • Advance care planning is the process which clarifies your goals and values, helps your care circle understand your health care choices, and communicates your wishes and goals in writing on a health care directive.
  • A health care directive is a written record of your health care wishes.
  • Health care agents: People in your life whom you trust who are willing and able to honor your wishes and respect your decisions.

Life during a global pandemic is challenging, but it can lead to important family conversations. One of these is whether or not you have a health care directive, also known as a living will, advanced directive or durable power of attorney for health care. This important document makes sure you and your care circle (family members and friends) have discussed and made plans so your health care wishes and goals are known and followed if an illness or injury prevents you from communicating them yourself.

We can help you through the steps you should take to create your own health care directive. The process is easy and involves just a handful of simple steps.

Step 1. Don't wait until you're sick or injured to write your health care directive.

Talk with your provider and understand your health. That way, you know what to address in your health care directive. All adults, regardless of age or health status, should have a health care directive.

Step 2. Identify your health care agent or agents.

These are people in your life whom you trust who are willing and able to honor your wishes and respect your decisions. It is recommend that you choose a primary and a secondary agent. Be sure to talk to them before you include them in your health care directive so they understand your goals and values.

Step 3. Fill out your health care directive form.

Your health care directive can be as simple or as detailed as you want. Maybe your wish is to lengthen your life or to stop treatment depending on the circumstances. The document can include whether or not you'd like to donate your organs, what provides you comfort and quality of life. It should include what matters most to you.

The completed health care directive needs to be validated. In Minnesota, it should be notarized or signed in the presence of two witnesses which cannot be your health care agents. In Wisconsin, you need to sign the document in the presence of two witnesses.

Step 4. Make copies of your health care directive.

Give a copy to each of your health care agents, your provider and anyone else who is involved in your health care.

Keep the original in a place where you can find it quickly. Bring it with you if you go to the hospital or a nursing home. You can also share the link for the online document with your agents and other members of your care circle. Give your providers a copy of the online document so it can be scanned into your medical record.  

If you have a do not resuscitate wish, ask your provider for a signed form called 'Providers Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment' (POLST). Once signed, this form should be scanned into your electronic medical record along with your health care directive, and a copy given to each of your health agents. Keep this bright yellow form on your refrigerator at home along with your health care directive, as paramedics need to see this signed order for them not to perform CPR. Bring a copy or the original with you to the hospital.

Step 5. Review your health care directive at least once every five years.

Make updates if there are changes in your health or if your agent is no longer able to continue in that role. Once you validate and distribute your new health care directive, the old one is no longer valid.

If you’d like some help to write your health care directive, Allina Health offers virtual advanced care planning classes


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