Advance care planning is an ongoing process of talking about your goals, values and wishes in terms of your health care.
Going through the process of deciding what really matters to you at the time of a potentially life-threatening illness or at the end of life can be distressing for you as well as those who care about you.
Identifying a medical decision maker, called a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (DPA-HC) and completing an advance directive can offer you a sense of control in difficult times and lessen the burden on your family or a trusted individual from having to make very difficult medical decisions when you are ill.
Everyone over the age of 18 should consider talking about their medical care wishes with someone they would trust to speak for them if they were not able to do so during a medical emergency and to complete and advance directive.
These conversations are never easy and many have no idea how to even start this conversation with family or other important people in your life. The following examples may help start this conversation:
- “It’s important to me to be able to talk honestly with you about my concerns and wishes if I ever become seriously ill or unable to speak for myself.”
- My doctor says I need to go over my advance directive.”
- “I want to make sure that I get the type of care that I want, so there are things we should talk about.”
- “I’d like to eliminate burdens for my family/DPOA-HC to make medical decisions on my behalf if I ever become incapable of communicating my wishes.”
- “If you are ever in the position where you need to make healthcare decisions for me, it will be helpful for you to know what I really want.”
An advance directive form can be obtained from your primary care provider, attorney or online. The Montana Department for Justice has forms, information and a registry on their website.
Additional information can be found online:
Once the advance directive is complete, talk with your primary care provider about your wishes, give copies to your medical decision maker (DPOA-HC) and your community hospital(s). Also consider sending a copy to the Montana End of Life Registry at P.O. Box 201410, Helena, MT 59620. Instructions are available at doj.mt.gov for instruction on how to file an advance directive.
It is also important for you to know that your wishes may change over time and your advance directive can easily be updated or changed.