Frequently Asked Questions

What is advance care planning?

Advance care planning is an ongoing conversation between you, your family, and your physician regarding your wishes for end-of-life care. It involves learning about end-of-life options; choosing the kind of medical care is that best for you and your family based on your health care values; appointing a healthcare agent, the person who will speak for you if you’re unable to speak for yourself; and results in the completion of a health care directive, the legal document that outlines your desires.

Advance care planning is a vital aspect of health care for every adult, regardless of age or health status.

Have an Advance Care Planning
Conversation

Honoring Choices Minnesota

Advance Care Planning 101
Honoring Choices Minnesota

Conversations that Matter
Minnesota
Network of Hospice and Palliative Care (MNHPC)

Thinking Ahead: My Way, My Choice, My Life at the
End

Consumer Corner:
Department of Developmental Services

Advance Care PlanningPatients and
Families

Compassion and Support at the End of Life

Glossary of Terms
Compassion and Support at the End of Life

End-of-Life Tools
On Our Own
Terms

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How do I begin advance care planning?

Advance care planning starts with identifying your health care values and
exploring your options to determine what your wishes are for end-of-life care.
For additional resources and information to help you in this process, please
visit our Beginning The Conversation page.

Advance Care Planning Resource List
Minnesota
Network of Hospice and Palliative Care (MNHPC)

Five Easy Steps
Compassion and Support at the End of Life

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How do I talk to my loved ones about advance care planning?

Discussing death and dying isn’t easy. But talking about it now will keep
your loved ones from having to make difficult decisions later on without
knowing what kind of care you want. For additional resources and ideas to help
you get the conversation started, please visit our Beginning The Conversation page.

Consider the Conversation
A documentary on a taboo
subject

Having Your Own Say
A book to guide your advance care
planning

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How do I talk to my doctor about advance care planning?

Your doctor is familiar with advance care planning and the health care
directive, and will be open to discussing advance care planning with you.

Prior to completing a health care directive, your doctor may be helpful in
explaining your medical care options, answering questions, and directing you to
any necessary resources. If you already have a health care directive, your
doctor can check that it is clear and complete, and ensure that a copy is
included in your medical record.

Discuss Your Wishes
Compassion and Support at the End of Life

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What is a health care directive?

A health care directive, sometimes called an advance directive or living
will, is a document that outlines your wishes for future health care to be used
only when you are unable to communicate your desires directly. While the health
care directive is a legal document, an attorney is not required for its
completion.

A health care directive usually includes an explanation of your health care
values, specifies treatment you do and do not wish to receive under certain
circumstances, and names a healthcare agent, the person who will speak for you
if you’re unable to speak for yourself.

What is an Advance Care Directive?
Minnesota Network of Hospice and Palliative Care
(MNHPC)

Advance Care Directives
Caring Connections, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
(NHPCO)

What are Advance Directives?
Caring Connections, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
(NHPCO)

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Who needs to complete a health care directive?

Contrary to popular belief, health care directives are not just for the
elderly or those facing terminal illness. Every adult, age 18 and older, should
complete a health care directive. By preparing for a medical crisis in advance,
you can avoid having to make difficult decisions under stressful circumstances.
In addition, you ensure your medical care is consistent with your health care
values, even if you are unable to communicate with your care providers.

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Why do I need a health care directive?

A health care directive ensures that your wishes are carried out, even when
you’re unable to make them known. Without a health care directive, decisions
regarding your treatment are left to the discretion of your medical care
providers or a close relative. Family members may disagree regarding the best
course of action, adding stress to an already difficult situation, or
responsibility may fall to a family member who is not best suited to make
decisions for you. Having a health care directive reassures you and your family
that you’re receiving exactly the kind of care you would choose for yourself if
you were able to communicate your wishes.

Why Plan in Advance?
Minnesota Network of Hospice and Palliative Care (MNHPC)

Why This Wisconsin City is the Best Place to Die
Star
Tribune

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Where can I find a health care directive?

You can download a copy of the Honoring Choices Minnesota Health Care
Directive here.

Download in Additional Languages
Twin Cities Medical Society

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How do I complete a health care directive?

While the health care directive is a document, completing one involves more
than simply filling out a form. To begin, take some time to reflect on your
health care values, beliefs, and desires. Download the Honoring
Choices Minnesota Health Care Directive
to guide you through the issues and
options that must be considered. You may find it helpful to meet with your
doctor or with a certified advance care planning facilitator to be confident
you understand your options and that you are able to make informed choices
regarding your future medical care. When you feel you’ve arrived at your
decisions for end-of-life care, engage your loved ones, especially your chosen
healthcare agent, in an advance care planning conversation. Now you are ready
to put pen to paper and document your desires in a health care directive.

Clarify Your Values and Beliefs
Compassion and Support at the End of Life

Preparing Your Advance Directive
Caring Connections

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What do I do with my health care directive after it’s complete?

Once you’ve filled out your health care directive, have two people sign as
witnesses or have it notarized. Then bring a copy to your doctor’s office to be
included in your medical record. In addition, you’ll want to keep a copy for
your own records and distribute one to your healthcare agent as well as one or
two other loved ones.

Storing Your Advance Care Directive
Caring Connections,
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)

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Whom should I share my health care directive with?

It’s a good idea to share a copy of your health care directive with the
people who are closest to you and are most likely to be involved in your care
should you become unable to direct your own treatment. This could include a
spouse, parents, children, close friends, and whomever you appoint as your
healthcare agent.

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When is my health care directive used?

As long as you are capable of making your own decisions, you have direct
control over your medical care. Your health care directive will only be used if
you become unable to communicate your wishes and direct your care on your own,
for example following a serious car accident, stroke, heart attack, or other
medical crisis during which you become unresponsive.

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How often do I need to revisit my health care directive?

A health care directive is a living document that should be updated any time
one of the “Five Ds” occurs:

  • Decade—when 10 years have past since your last update
  • Death—when you experience the death of a loved one
  • Divorce—when you experience a divorce or other major family change
  • Diagnosis—when you are diagnosed with a serious health condition
  • Decline—when you experience a significant decline in health

If at any time your values or desires for care change, you can update your
health care directive. Just be sure to communicate these changes with your
loved ones, especially your appointed healthcare agent and your doctor, so the
most recent copy is contained in your medical record.

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What is a healthcare agent?

A healthcare agent is the person who will speak for you if you are unable to
communicate your own desires for your medical care. The healthcare agent must
act according to your health care directive, but since a directive can’t
specifically address all possible scenarios, your healthcare agent will also
use his or her discretion to act according to your health care values when
making decisions regarding your medical care. This is why clearly describing
your values in your health care directive and having The Conversation with your
healthcare agent are crucial steps in the advance care planning process.

What is a Health Care Agent?
Minnesota Network of Hospice and Palliative Care

Health Care Agent Information Card
Minnesota Network of Hospice and Palliative Care

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Whom should I appoint as my healthcare agent?

A healthcare agent can be a spouse, family member, or close friend—the
choice is up to you. An ideal healthcare agent is someone who is:

  • Trustworthy and displays good judgment
  • Capable of making difficult decisions under stressful
    circumstances
  • Willing to accept the responsibility of being your health care
    agent
  • Willing to honor your wishes even when s/he doesn’t agree with
    them

Whomever you appoint, be sure to give him or her a copy of your health care
directive and communicate thoroughly about what it means to be a healthcare
agent, what your health care values are, and what kind of care you wish to
receive should you be unable to participate in your own treatment decisions. It
may be beneficial to choose a backup healthcare agent in the event your first
choice can’t or won’t take on the role when the time comes.

Health Care Agents: Choosing One and Being One
Caring Connections,
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)

Choosing a Spokesperson

Compassion and Support at the End of Life

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What is Light The Legacy?

Light The Legacy is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving end-of-life care in central Minnesota. We collaborate with Honoring Choices Minnesota and Respecting Choices to accomplish our mission through:

  • Community outreach and education efforts that promote advance care
    planning and informed decision-making
  • Facilitator training opportunities that allow community members to
    become proficient in assisting individuals and families with advance care
    planning
  • Resources and information that encourage health care providers to
    become actively involved in promoting advance care planning and assisting
    their patients through the process
  • Health care programs that increase the initiation and utilization of
    advance care planning and health care directives by both patients and
    providers to ensure informed decisions are made and honored
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How does Light The Legacy engage the community?

Light The Legacy connects with the Central Minnesota community through
expos, conferences, classes, and other speaking engagements that provide a
platform for explaining advance care planning and the importance of the health
care directive. In addition, Light The Legacy trains facilitators who are able
to provide advance care planning guidance to individuals and families in
Central Minnesota. As a community-based organization, we offer numerous
volunteer opportunities that allow members of our community to get involved in
our mission.

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How can I get involved and support Light The Legacy?

Becoming a trained facilitator is an excellent way for anyone to partner
with Light The Legacy in promoting advance care planning in Central Minnesota.
You can find more details about becoming a facilitator on our Training & Events page. Those who wish to further the
mission of Light The Legacy without any required training can simply talk
openly with their own family and friends and encourage them to participate in
advance care planning. The Conversation is what
it’s all about!

Occasionally, Light The Legacy has the opportunity to host fundraising events.
These events are a great opportunity for business owners to partner with us by
donating goods and services, while individuals within the community can offer
up the gift of time.

In addition, community members are invited to attend bimonthly committee
meetings to become more familiar with Light The Legacy, offer valuable input,
and discover additional ways to partner with our organization. For meeting
details and to learn about other volunteer opportunities, return to the home
page and subscribe to Light The Legacy’s monthly newsletter.

As a community-based organization, Light The Legacy relies on grants and
donations to fund our mission. By offering a financial gift, you play a vital
role in improving end-of-life care in Central Minnesota through the work of
Light The Legacy. Click the link on the right to donate now!

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What is a facilitator?

A facilitator is any person trained to assist individuals and families with
the process of advance care planning. Facilitators are often health care
providers, clergy, social workers, and other professionals, but may also be
laypeople with a desire to impact the community through advance care
planning.

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What does a facilitator do?

The responsibilities of a certified advance care planning facilitator
include:

  • Designing an individualized approach to advance care planning
  • Making referrals to other resources as needed
  • Assisting individuals in making informed healthcare decisions
  • Preparing and strengthening the role of the healthcare agent
  • Assisting in the development of a plan that honors the individual’s
    goals, values, and beliefs for future medical care
  • Developing strategies to effectively communicate the plan to those who
    will be responsible for interpreting it and making decisions based upon
    it
  • Providing formal and informal community education
  • Coordinating advance care planning activities within an organization or
    community
  • Assisting with the development and implementation of organizational
    systems that support advance care planning objectives
  • Providing emotional support to individuals and families struggling with
    end-of-life decisions
  • Conducting performance improvement activities to continually evaluate
    quality outcomes related to advance care planning

 

A Staged Approach to Advance Care Planing
Respecting Choices

Respecting Choices Informational Video
Respecting Choices

Training and Certification
Respecting
Choices

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How do I arrange a facilitated conversation about advance care
planning?

Your health care provider or clinic can refer you to a trained facilitator
who can guide you through this important process.