Advance care planning

Advance care planning (ACP) is the process of thinking about, communicating, and documenting your future health care wishes in case of illness, accident, or sudden medical event.

We want to ensure that your health care wishes are known and respected. Social workers are available to help any member over age 18 begin or continue the process of advance care planning.

An advance care planning social worker can help you:

  • Explore your personal values, beliefs, and quality of life considerations
  • Weigh options for the kind of care and treatment you want or don't want
  • Consider who you should appoint to speak on your behalf
  • Start the conversation with family, friends, and clergy, as well as health care and other providers
  • Complete advance directive documents (Power of Attorney for Health Care and Living Will) to clearly state your values and wishes
  • Review your current advance directive to ensure it continues to reflect your wishes

Enrollment is voluntary. Enroll now and one of our team members will contact you.

Advance directive documents

As part of good medical care for you and your family, it’s important for you to have advance directive documents filed with your provider.

An advance directive is a legal document that states how you want your health care decisions to be made if you become incapacitated or cannot express your wishes. An advance directive helps guide your doctor and your loved ones about the care you wish to receive.

Both the Power of Attorney for Health Care (PDF) and the Declaration to Physicians (Living Will) (PDF), when properly completed and signed, are essential parts of good planning and medical care. They not only help physicians, family, and friends honor your wishes, but also relieve the pressure of decision-making at a potentially stressful time. We've provided more information on how to prepare and submit these important documents in the following sections.

The goal of preparing these documents is to ensure your health wishes are respected. Additionally, the process of completing these documents encourages discussion of your wishes with family, friends, and your doctor.

Living will

This is a type of advance directive that lists specific medical preferences. It is sometimes used as an addendum to a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. It's also called a “directive to physicians,” “health care declaration,” or “medical directive.”

Note: This form can be used when an agent is difficult to assign. In such case, one can work with their physician to discuss and complete this form.

To complete a Power of Attorney for Health Care form and/or a Declaration to Physicians, follow these steps
  • Find and download Advance Directives Forms
  • Before filling out your forms, pick an agent or proxy who will honor your wishes. They don't need to live in the same state as you. It's important to discuss your wishes and preferences with them.
  • Complete the Power of Attorney for Health Care and/or Declaration to Physicians form.
  • Have the forms signed and witnessed. You do not need an attorney to complete advance directive forms, but it is important to follow state-specific directions to assure that the forms are legally valid. You can consult an attorney if you prefer.
  • Once completed, bring the forms to your doctor so they can be filed as part of your medical directive. Keep your original and make extra copies for yourself and your agent.
  • If your primary language is not English, we have translation services available.
  • If you have questions, call your clinic and ask for an appointment to discuss advance care planning.
  • Safely store your forms with your other legal documents in an accessible place. It's optional, but you may want to share a copy with your attorney. Make sure key people in your life know where these documents are kept.
  • Some people choose to make and carry a wallet card which indicates where these forms are located and/or the name and contact information for their attorney.

Submit your completed forms to your primary care or specialty care physician's office.

Did you know:

  • 90 percent say talking to loved ones about end-of-life wishes is important
  • 27 percent have actually discussed this topic with loved ones
  • 80 percent want their doctor to talk about end-of-life issues
  • 7 percent say their doctor has talked about end-of-life care

Don’t forget:

  • You can make an appointment with any of your doctors to discuss advance care planning.
  • You can list any types of health care that you do or don't want in the Power of Attorney for Health Care form.
  • You can limit the authority of your health care agent.
  • You can designate an alternate health care agent if your primary agent is ever unable or unwilling to make decisions for you.
  • If you have appointed an agent for Power of Attorney for Finance and Property, this person doesn't have the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf, unless you have also appointed them as agent for Power of Attorney for Health Care. It is common for people to appoint one agent for health care decisions and another agent to handle financial matters.
  • If you also have a valid Declaration to Physicians (Living Will), the Power of Attorney for Health Care supersedes any conflicting directives in the living will. In other words, your agent has the authority to make a different decision from your Declaration to Physicians/Living Will, if the declaration does not match what they understand to be your treatment preferences and wishes. You should be sure that the person you appoint as your agent is someone you trust and who will always honor your wishes.
  • Before your agent can make health care decisions on your behalf, two health care providers must declare that you no longer have capacity to make decisions for yourself (e.g., you're in a persistent vegetative state or have lost mental capacity). These providers can be two physicians, or a physician plus either a psychologist, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.

The most important document is the Power of Attorney for Health Care (PDF) form, which allows you to appoint someone to make treatment decisions on your behalf if you're unable to so.

The person you appoint should be:

  • At least 18 years of age

  • Aware of your values and wishes

  • Willing to make decisions that are consistent with your wishes

  • Able to communicate your wishes to the health care team.

Your agent may be a spouse, trusted relative, or friend. This document can also include information that specifies your treatment preferences.

You may request individual advanced directive forms by mailing a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to:

Division of Public Health
PO Box 2659
Madison WI 53701-2659

Please note which forms you would like to have mailed to you.

Postage: For a single stamp (current rate) you may request the following:

Four Declaration to Physician (Living Will), OR
One Power of Attorney for Health Care, OR
One Declaration to Physician (Living Will) AND one (1) Power of Attorney for Health Care

Many clinics also have forms available. Don't hesitate to ask your provider for advance directive forms at your next visit.

Benefit information