Pacifica Senior Living Blog

Planning for the Future: Advance Directives and Health Care Planning

Apr 15, 2024 4:22:18 PM / by Carly Dodd, Pacifica Senior Living

National Healthcare Decisions Day is a day that encourages the public to take charge of their own healthcare directives. It is intended to “inspire, educate and empower” while highlighting the importance of advance care planning and advanced directives.

Making a plan for your future helps you and your loved ones to be on the same page about your health and your wishes. It’s never too early to think about your future.

What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance care planning includes preparing and talking about medical care decisions. It focuses on making decisions now for any future medical ailments in the future should you become ill or unable to express your wishes at a later time. Advance care planning is simply the process of discussing your plans with loved ones, and/or writing these plans out. 

What are Advance Directives for Health Care?

Advance directives are the next step in advance care planning. After having discussions and talking through your plans with loved ones, you can fill out an advance healthcare directive legal document which will have detailed instructions regarding your medical care.

These directives would only be used if wishes cannot be communicated directly. The two main types of advance directives are the durable power of attorney, and the living will.

Advanced planning can also include a variety of other health care wishes. It is important to think about and discuss medical treatment preferences, end-of-life care decisions (such as preferences on life-sustaining treatment options such as life support, do not resuscitate (dnr) preferences, treatment decisions for any known conditions, and even organ or tissue donation.


While some of these topics may feel heavy, sharing your thoughts and feelings about these decisions will help you feel more secure in your future, knowing your wishes will be carried out.

Advance Directives can be updated, reviewed or changed at any time, but it is a good idea to review them every year to be sure they are still up to date should you need them.

Advance Care Planning for Those Living with Dementia:

While there are many reasons someone may wish to start advance care planning, it is particularly important for those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Dementia can impact cognitive ability, and can even impact the ability to communicate freely. If you have a loved one with dementia, it may be time to think about advanced directives and advance care planning.

Creating a plan and discussing your loved one’s wishes early can help you both prepare for any future medical scenarios and ensure you are on the same page before any mental health concerns may impair judgment or decision making abilities.

Not only will this mean you can discuss plans with your loved one while they are still able to communicate their wishes clearly, but it also helps alleviate stress, guilt and uncertainty which can arise later in life when your loved one’s health of cognition deteriorates. Advance planning also gives the individual with dementia a sense of control and ownership over their future -

Remember advance care planning can be emotionally heavy, so it does not have to happen all at once. Have conversations with a loved one, or with other family members and friends, and/or the healthcare provider of your loved one. There are also many dementia care support groups which can lend support and offer advice to others.

How to Start Advance Care Planning: 

- Take the time to think through what you would want - what is important to you, what are your core values. Rather than focusing on specific care scenarios, start with overall wishes to guide you.

- Speak to your healthcare professionals. Caregivers, health care agents, and doctors can help you make decisions that support your health.

Talk to your doctor or medical staff in your senior living community or health care facility about your options. They can review medical records, discuss any current health concerns, and help you decide what these may mean for your future health planning. Medicare usually covers advance care planning as part of annual wellness as well, so check with your provider.

- Pick someone you trust to make medical decisions for you if you are no longer able to. Think of someone you know will uphold your wishes, like a close friend or family member, and speak to them about your preferences and wishes. You can be specific, or if it's easier, start with your values and general beliefs.

Either way, expressing how you feel will help ensure your preferences will be carried out if you cannot make your own decisions in the future. If you are satisfied with your conversations, you can officially declare this person your Power of attorney for health care, so they can legally help keep your wishes.

- Fill out legal advance directive forms. Putting your wishes and plans into a formal document helps keep everything legal, but also makes it easier for others to clearly understand what you want. There is less room for misunderstanding if your plans are properly documented.

You can also officially assign a power of attorney who will be in charge of carrying out your wishes. Once these forms are complete, share them with your medical providers, loved ones, and health care proxy (or power of attorney). Be sure they have a copy of your advance directive.

- Review and update as needed. These decisions are not set in stone if you ever change your mind. Be sure to review your choices, keep the conversation open, and communicate as much as needed with your health care power of attorney, friends and loved ones as your needs or health change.

Making Healthcare Decisions 

Remember it is never too early to start thinking about your future health. Whether you live at home, in a senior living community, or are a family member of someone in a nursing home or care community, making a plan for the future can help everyone feel more at easy.

Talking about your wishes, or ask your loved one their preferences. Start small and focus on values and beliefs before diving into specific treatments or estate planning conversations until everyone feels comfortable.

Being open and honest will help everyone feel as comfortable as possible should health scenarios change, dementia advance, or your loved one lose the ability to communicate on their own. 

Have more questions about Advance Directives and long term health? Pacifica Senior Living is here to help! Reach out to us or join one of our informational talks to learn more. We can answer any questions or point you to experts who can help. We're here to assist every step of your journey.

Tags: Health and Wellness