Does anyone know what you want and why?

Last Modified: 9/23/2022


This post was written by Erica Downing, MSW, LBSW, Advance Care Planning facilitator and instructor, Parkview Health.

If you were to experience an unforeseen accident or illness today, would your family and medical providers know what type of medical care you want or do not want? Do they know the reasoning behind why you want this type of care? One of the most meaningful things you can do for those who matter most is to provide a road map that directs the type of care you would choose if you were unable to speak for yourself. Advance Care Planning (ACP) gives you the opportunity to develop your personal roadmap ahead of an emergent situation.

ACP is the process of thinking about and sharing your values, goals and preferences related to future health care decisions through participating in a conversation with a certified ACP facilitator. Advance Directives (ADs) give you the opportunity to put your decisions in writing. You are also empowered to appoint a health care representative, who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes. You can even appoint a secondary or tertiary health care representative in case your primary representative is unable or unwilling to fulfill the role. ADs provide clear and concise direction to those responsible for your care and help ensure that you only receive what you want, nothing more, nothing less.

This answers the question, “what do you want?”. Have you considered why you want this type of care? We have all likely had experiences that shape our own thoughts on the medical treatment we would want or would not want. Meeting with a skilled ACP facilitator helps you to address the reasoning behind your choices.

When you answer these two important questions, you are giving the greatest gift to your health care representative by indicating what should be done in case of an emergency. These answers will lead to lessened confusion, guilt, anxiety, and depression because your health care representative is not tasked with trying to determine what decision you would make if you were able. You will have provided them with the answer to this question!

If you choose not to take the opportunity to make these decisions ahead of time, there is a chance that you will receive medical care that you do not want as these decisions will be left to an unprepared decision maker. Choosing not to make these decisions may also result in added stress and tension among family members or friends because of the need to make these crucial decisions unexpectedly.

How can you avoid these potential risks? The answer is simple. Participate in a facilitated ACP conversation and complete an AD appointing a health care representative. By doing this ahead of an emergency you are making sure your representative(s) knows what decisions you have made and will only authorize treatments that align with your choices.

Having your decisions documented in both a written AD and in your medical record help to ensure that you receive the care you want or do not receive the care you do not want. Certified ACP facilitators will document your conversation in your medical record so that the crucial answers of what you want and do not want and why can be accessed and known by your medical team. Your facilitator will also assist in the completion of an AD.

Indiana has recently changed the law related to the ADs that can be used to express your decisions. As of July 1, 2021, there is no longer any required language that must be included in the document nor is there a mandatory state form that is to be used. Previously, many individuals would execute multiple ADs to convey their choices. Under the new law, one document will be used to appoint a health care representative and your wishes on the use of life-prolonging procedures such as ventilator support, tube feedings, dialysis, etc. If you have already completed an AD, worry not, those will remain valid. This change, however, provides you with a chance to revisit your current documents to ensure they accurately express your preferences and complete the new AD if your wishes need to be updated.  

I encourage you to learn more about ACP and take the steps to begin your personal ACP journey by contacting the ACP Department at Parkview Health. We can be reached by phone at 260-266-1481 or by email at We are here to help guide you through this crucial conversation and process to ensure your true wishes are known and honored.  

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