Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning 

For advance care planning information, call 507-646-1147.

Advance Care Planning is a process which helps you think about, talk about, and write down your choices for future health care. Thinking about and specifying the things that are important in your life can help guide the care you want in the future. Advance Care Planning helps you understand treatment options and provides you a voice in your future care decisions. While not an easy topic to consider, it is important for every adult to have a Health Care Directive—a written plan for loved ones and health care providers to follow—so that your wishes are known if a time comes when you cannot speak for yourself. Making these important decisions now can allow you and your loved ones to focus on living well in the future. You’ll have peace of mind knowing your family and care team are aware of the treatment options you choose, and that your loved ones will know and be able to honor your choices.

“I have a Health Care Directive not because I have a serious illness, but because I have a family.”  - Dr. Ira Byock

The most important part of advance care planning is the conversations you have with your family and friends.  Writing down your wishes is only helpful if the people in your life who will be involved know about them and understand them.  

How Do I Complete a Health Care Directive?

Usually, the first step in creating a Health Care Directive is choosing who will be your Health Care Agent. This person, sometimes called a Proxy or Health Care Power of Attorney, will be the one you trust to make decisions for you if you cannot do so yourself. Sometimes the best person for the role of Agent is not the first person you think of. It’s important to talk about this with those closest to you and determine who will be best suited to carry out your wishes. 

The second part of a Health Care Directive is stating your treatment choices. This part may be as detailed or as simple as you would like; it’s all about what is important to you. There are no right or wrong choices, and you can change your directive at any time—in fact, we encourage you to look at it periodically throughout your life to make sure it is still an accurate expression of your wishes.

Health Care Directive Forms

There are two Honoring Choices Health Care Directives. Which one is right for you?

  1. The standard directive is comprehensive and detailed. It leads you through decisions about medical, spiritual, and personal preferences. This is the directive most commonly recommended for the majority of adults. Click the Honoring Choices standard directive.
  2. The short form is a streamlined directive which allows you to simply name your agent, and/or list basic health care wishes—but it does not go into detail. This form is meant for young adults or others who do not feel the longer version is right for them. Click the Honoring Choices short form.

Health Care Directives are available at all Northfield Hospital & Clinic locations. 

Note: A Health Care Directive is not a POLST (Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment). If you have questions about POLST please contact your healthcare provider directly. Click the POLST.

Selecting your Health Care Agent:

You may choose an immediate family member, a trusted friend, or another person to speak for you.  How do you make the best choice?  Ask yourself:

  1. Do I trust this person to be able to make complex or tough decisions?
  2. Will this person honor my wishes even if they don't personally agree?
  3. Is this person emotionally strong enough to make choices at a difficult time?
  4. Can this person stand up for my wishes if family members or others disagree?
  5. Is this person likely to be nearby and available in case of emergency?

Then sit down and talk with the person you’ve chosen, asking them if they are willing and able to take on the role. Once they agree, make sure they clearly understand your wishes and your goals for future healthcare.


Frequently Asked Questions

When will my directive be used?

As long as you can make your own choices, you control your own medical care. If you can’t make choices for yourself, your health care team, in cooperation with your Agent, will follow your wishes as described in your health care directive. Therefore, it is very important that you give your health care provider(s) a copy of your directive for your medical record.  

Do I need a lawyer (or to pay someone) to complete my health care directive?

No. Adults may complete their own legal directives, providing it meets the following Minnesota requirements: 1) Your directive must be in writing, with your full name clearly visible, and be signed and dated. 2) Your directive must list one or both of these components:  a named health care agent and/or health care or treatment instructions. 3) Your directive must be witnessed by two adults or by a notary public.

Will my directive be valid in other states?

You should always keep a copy with you when you travel, but be aware that every state has its own rules about directives. Many will honor a document which is legal in the state where it was written, but if you spend significant time away, you should check on local laws.

How often should I review or update my health care directive?

Remember the 5 D’s:

  • Decade – each time you celebrate a milestone birthday
  • Divorce – or other life-changing event or relationship change
  • Death – of a family member or friend, or that affects you significantly
  • Diagnosis – of a new or changed health care challenge
  • Decline – disease progression or change which leads to a decline in health