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Advance Care Planning

Speak for yourself, plan your care

Mother and daughter have conversation about advance care planning.Advance Care Planning is not something you do when you retire, get older, or become ill. Every adult, 18 and up, should have an advance care plan in place in case of emergency.

Having a conversation with your loved ones about what you would want if you couldn’t speak for yourself is a tremendous gift. Getting everyone on the same page, even if they don’t agree, saves the people who love you guilt, doubt, worry and conflict at a time that is already difficult. It allows them to be your voice in a crisis, ensuring you get the care that is right for you.

What is advance care planning?

Advance care planning is:

  • For ALL adults, 18 and up
  • Thinking about future healthcare decisions if you had a sudden event (like an accident or illness)
  • Naming people you trust to make decisions for you if you can’t speak for yourself
  • Telling those people what you would want
  • Writing it down
  • Making sure it’s available in an emergency

Download both the information guide and the Healthcare Power of Attorney/Advance Directive here to get started.

What is an advance directive for health care?

Advance directives (AD) are written directions based on your planning that allows you to give specific, written instructions to healthcare providers and loved ones about how much, or how little, medical treatment you would like to receive if you are unable to make decisions for yourself later on. The advance directive will guide your patient advocate, loved ones, and your caregivers when you cannot speak for yourself. Advance directives let you maintain control over your future medical treatments. While Spectrum Health Lakeland supports and encourages your right to an advance directive, lack of an advance directive does not hamper access to care.

Advance directive information is offered upon admission, and is available at any time. All patients who are admitted to Lakeland are asked about their wishes – no matter what kind of procedure they’re having.

What is a facilitator?

Facilitators are people who are trained to help you identify what is important to you, help you make decisions about your future health care, and help you put your plan in writing. Your decisions may change over time, so it is helpful to review your plan yearly or as needed if you are diagnosed with a serious illness or have a sudden serious brain injury.

The facilitator is skilled to help you clarify your personal values, beliefs, and preferences for end-of-life care. The meeting moves at your own pace, and there is no pressure to influence your treatment preferences.

What is a patient advocate?

A Patient Advocate is the person who can make medical decisions for you if you are too sick or unable to make them yourself. Naming a Patient Advocate is your Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney (DPOA-HC.) A Patient Advocate can only make your medical decisions if two doctors agree that you cannot make your own decisions, and this is noted in your record. Your Patient Advocate will make decisions that you would be asked to make if you were able.

A Patient Advocate does not have to be a family member, or someone who lives nearby. As long as they are reachable by phone and you trust them to honor your wishes, they can be your advocate. Some qualities to consider:

  • They must be over 18.
  • They can be contacted when you need them.
  • They must be comfortable talking with you about your health. This document can and should be updated throughout your lifetime as your health and life changes.
  • They must be willing to honor your wishes, even if they don’t agree with what you choose. The wishes you write down in this document will guide them, but they are able to override them. They need that flexibility in case something happens and they have to adjust the plan, but that’s why it’s so important to choose someone you trust to follow your wishes as closely as possible.
  • They must be willing to speak up for you even when it’s uncomfortable. If anyone disagrees with your choices, such as other family members or even health care team members, they will be your voice and make sure your health care matches your goals and values.
  • They must be willing to accept the role.

What else do I need to know?

Below are some links to additional material that can help you make informed decisions

  • Tips for Starting the Conversation – Discussing your wishes with your loved ones is so important, but it can be hard to get started. This list of ideas will help you ease into the conversation.
  • Patient Advocate Guide – You will need to choose someone you trust to speak for you when you can’t speak for yourself. This is an important decision, and a big responsibility. This information sheet will help you determine who to choose, and talk through what would be expected of that person. · Help With Breathing – Learn what you need to know about ventilators, when and how they are used, and what you should think about when making your decisions.

Make your choices known

Southwest Michigan’s ACP program Speak for Yourself, Plan Your Care is a collaboration of community partners that offers the opportunity for individuals to discuss their healthcare wishes with certified ACP facilitators.

Take advantage of this community program and take a step forward with your plan, wherever you are starting from:

  1. Schedule a conversation with a facilitator to discuss what’s most important to you as you begin your plan
  2. If you have an advance directive in place, review it or to make sure it still reflects your wishes
  3. When you are comfortable with your advance directive, provide copies to your advocates and family so they are prepared to be your voice if something happens
  4. Provide a copy of your advance directive to the admissions department of your local hospital for placement in your electronic medical chart, so it’s easy to find in an emergency

For more information on ACP call 269.983.8166 or email

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