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We plan years ahead for retirement. We plan months ahead for vacations. We plan for college educations. But, we do not plan well for our own health care, most often leaving decisions up to weary family members.
Taking more personal responsibility for your own health care requires shifting from a reactive mind-set to a proactive approach, with the idea of creating a flexible health care road map for handling any changes in your health. An advanced health care plan goes beyond a single health care directive, such as a "do not resuscitate" order, and moves into a more comprehensive plan of action that can grow and change along with your condition.
Understand Your Condition
Creating an effective plan requires knowledge about the disease or condition and its natural progression, consideration of cultural and religious beliefs, individual preferences and comprehensive communication with family members and your physician. Typically, the most difficult part of the planning process is having an open, honest discussion with family members.
Advanced health care planning gives patients and families peace of mind and can help families avoid regret-laden behavior, which can accompany a protracted illness and eventual death.
Make Your Desires Known
Be prepared to discuss your personal preference for health care with your physician(s). Having this type of discussion improves the patient-physician relationship and assists the physician in providing specific care according to your wishes. You should also appoint a health care agent to act on your behalf in case you become unable to do so yourself. If you are unable to speak for yourself, and have not appointed a spokesperson, your doctor and health care team will turn to one or more of your family members or friends. It is best to put your wishes in writing; however, you can change your mind at any time during the course of your care.
The most appropriate decision-maker is one with whom you have a close, caring relationship — someone aware of your values and beliefs and willing and able to make needed decisions.
Advanced Care Planning Program
Sharp HealthCare's Advance Care Planning (ACP) Program is a free service available to assist as you consider your future health care options.
Our trained ACP consultants are available for you to discuss your personal preferences regarding health care decisions. We can support you throughout the advance health care planning process, which includes:
Ensure Your Advance Care Plan Will Be Carried Out
Make sure that your family and other important people in your life understand what your preferences are and what is included in your advance directive. It is particularly important to discuss your decisions with the individual who will be your health care agent to be sure he or she is comfortable with that role and can be available to carry out your wishes.
Advance Health Care Directive
To learn more about advance health care directives or to fill out a form, visit:
For More Information
To learn more, read frequently asked questions about Sharp HospiceCare or call 619-667-1900. To find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about hospice care, read the Home Care and Hospice News archive.