Advance Care Planning

What is Advance Care Planning?

We like to think that we will always be healthy, independent and able to make decisions for ourselves; however things can change suddenly. We might have an accident or a serious illness and no longer be able to speak for ourselves. When that happens, doctors often turn to our loved ones to speak for us. If your loved ones were asked, will they know what care you would want?

Talking with your physicians and loved ones now will help you plan for future medical needs, and is the best way to ensure that your medical wishes will be respected. Even after you have made your wishes known, these wishes may change over time. It helps to think of this as a process.

Keep in mind that other family members and loved ones need to understand your wishes. Depending on how close they may be geographically or emotionally, this can be challenging. The more those close to you are aware of your wishes, the more likely those wishes will be carried out should an illness or injury ever occur.

For more detailed information, please download our Advanced Care Planning Guide.

Advance Health Care Directive

As you reflect and decide upon your wishes, we encourage you to write them down in an Advance Health Care Directive document.

An advance health care directive is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to work with your doctors and others to help make sure your decisions about end-of-life health care are honored and respected in the event that you become unable to make these decisions for yourself.

There are simple and thorough educational materials to assist healthcare providers in explaining artificial and life-prolonging treatments such as artificial hydration, tube feeding, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the ventilator.  They were developed by the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California and are available in English, Chinese, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese. 

If you would like one or more of these brochures, please contact the Palliative Care Consult Service at (626) 397-3737 and we can mail them to you or your doctor and answer any questions. 

For information about organ and tissue donation, click here.

Advance directives are legal and binding throughout the United States and while you do not need a lawyer to fill out an advance directive, the laws governing advance directives vary from state to state. It is therefore important to make sure that you use a proper form or format appropriate to the state in which you live.

Headline: Advance Healthcare Directive Guides and Forms




Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

POLST is a physician order that helps give seriously ill patients more control over their end-of life care. It is produced on a distinctive bright pink form and signed by both the doctor and patient or their decision-maker. A POLST specifies the types of medical treatment that a patient wishes to receive when they have a progressive illness, or towards the end of life. As a result, POLST can prevent unwanted or medically ineffective treatment, reduce patient and family suffering, and help ensure that patients’ wishes are honored.

The decisions documented on the POLST form include whether to:

  • attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • administer antibiotics and IV fluids
  • use a mechanical ventilator to help with breathing
  • provide artificial nutrition by tube
  • provide hydration by tube
  • be taken to the hospital or emergency department when symptoms can be managed at home by home health or hospice care

POLST is designed for seriously ill individuals, or those who are in very poor health, regardless of their age. The form complements an advance health care directive and is not intended to replace that document. An advance directive is still necessary to appoint a legal healthcare decision maker, and is recommended for all adults, regardless of their health status.

Patients can request the POLST from their healthcare provider. It is important to discuss your goals of treatment with your healthcare provider so you can decide if POLST is right for you, and how to document your decisions appropriately on the form. The form can also be found at, along with other helpful resources.

Information provided by the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California (CCCC).