Published on March 20, 2021

A woman fills out her advance directive paperwork.

Make time to put your health care wishes in writing

There a number of popular spring holidays, yet an important one may not be noted on your calendar. April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. It serves as a reminder to plan ahead for a time when you might need a personal representative and a written directive to inform medical professionals about your health care wishes.

Advance care planning does not have to be difficult or costly. ProHealth Care provides free advance care planning documents, information and consultations to anyone in the community 18 or older.

Advance care planning includes:

  • Making thoughtful decisions about the level of care that would be provided to you in the event that you became seriously ill or injured and could not make your own health care decisions for a period of time.
  • Selecting a health care agent to help guide health care decision making according to your wishes.
  • Documenting your decisions in a health care directive so your agent and medical team can follow your wishes if you cannot speak for yourself.
  • Sharing your wishes and health care directive with your health care agent, loved ones and local health care system.

“When a patient’s wishes are not known or put into writing, it can cause loved ones undue stress and uncertainty at a difficult time,” said Rachel Zuniga, advance care planning coordinator. “Without advance care documentation, a court may appoint a guardian who does not know the patient or the family to make health care decisions.”

Planning for unforeseen health events is especially important during the pandemic. COVID-19 is a serious, sometimes fatal, illness that can strike any person at any time, regardless of their age or health status.

With a health care directive, treatment is provided to you according to your beliefs and values. Your personal, trusted health care agent can let your medical team know the type of care you want to receive. As soon as you are able to make decisions for yourself again, you resume control of your own health care.

You can change your health care directive and your health care agent at any time and as many times as you wish, over the course of your lifetime. There is no charge for the original document or future changes.

Advance care planning allows you to make important health care decisions in advance, share them with loved ones and health care providers, and give you and those you care about peace of mind. Without advance planning and documentation the care you receive may not reflect your personal preferences.

“Planning ahead will help everyone know that they are following your wishes,” Rachel said. “It’s a gift to yourself, and a gift to your family members.”

You can download advance directives forms in English and Spanish now and take the first step to making your health care wishes known.