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Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning — What Matters to You?

Patients discuss advance care plans

Preparation is the key for every event in life and your health is no exception.  Atlantic Health System put together the following guide to help you explore and decide what matters most to you and then encourages you to discuss these ideas with people who are important in your life.  By having these conversations and documenting your wishes, you are taking an important step that can guide your health care team in providing treatment that respects your values and preferences in times of serious illness or injury.

Have the Conversation

  • 92% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important
  • 32% have actually done so*

(Source:  The Conversation Project National Survey 2018)

Talking with the important people in your life about your preferences for serious illness care or end-of-life can be very difficult for many people. However, a conversation early and often, before these events occur can provide a shared understanding of your values and help others support you if difficult decisions need to be made with your health care team.  

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Who is your Person?

In addition to having a conversation, it is important to think of who can best speak for you if you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself.  This trusted person is called a health care proxy.  Sometimes they are referred to as a health care agent, surrogate or durable power of attorney for health care.  He or she can talk with your doctors, consult your medical records and help make decisions about tests and treatments.


Record your Wishes in a Document

You may decide to record your wishes for health care and indicate who your health care proxy is in a document called an Advance Directive.  Sometimes it is referred to as a Living Will.  An Advance Directive is a preference document  which allows you to indicate what type of care or medical treatment you prefer if faced in a health care crisis.  It is important to know that an Advance Directive is used once you are no longer able to communicate for yourself.  Under these circumstances, your health care team will look to the document to help guide them in appropriate treatment decisions that respect your wishes.   Often the healthcare team will also seek to speak to your healthcare proxy and/or loved ones about your advance directive to ensure that they have a full understanding of what the document is saying really matters to you.

More information about advance directives and free resources to help you complete yours >

Is a POLST right for me?

A POLST is a Practitioner’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment.  A POLST is a set of medical orders, not a preference document. It is a legally binding document that is completed between you or your healthcare proxy and your physician, advance practice nurse, or physician assistant in the state of New Jersey.  It clearly outlines exact treatment options you would want if you are unable to speak for yourself.  It is intended for people who have a serious illness and are possibly in the last year of life.  Unlike an advance directive, it is immediately actionable in any healthcare setting and is respected by all healthcare providers. Learn more >

Your Decisions Matter

The Community Advisory Boards at Chilton Medical Center and Overlook Medical Center awarded SAGE Eldercare with a three-year grant to educate and support the public in having serious illness and end-of-life care conversations.  The Your Decisions Matter initiative organizes local workshop and events and provides a host of resources and tools that encourage individuals to share their wishes with family and health care providers before a medical crisis occurs.