Advance care planning

Make sure your values and wishes for your medical care are respected and followed if you're unable to express them. Learn about advance care planning and how Montage Health supports your rights.

What's advance care planning?

Advance care planning is a process to make and document decisions about your future healthcare preferences. By taking these steps now, you can help prevent any unnecessary stress on your loved ones if you are seriously ill or injured.

Common advance care questions

Feel empowered to plan now for your medical care.

Who decides my treatment?

Your doctors will give you information and advice about treatment. You have the right to choose. You can say "yes" to treatments you want and "no" to treatments you don’t want, even if the treatment might keep you alive longer.

How do I know what I want?

Your doctor must tell you about your medical condition and what different treatments and pain relief options may do for you. Many treatments have side effects. Your doctor must offer information about problems that medical treatment is likely to cause you.

Often, more than one treatment might help, and people have different opinions about which is best. Your doctor can tell you which treatments are available to you, but your doctor can't choose for you.

Can other people help with my decisions?

Yes. Patients often turn to their relatives and close friends for help making medical decisions. You can ask the doctors and nurses to talk with your relatives and friends, and your loved ones can ask the doctors and nurses questions for you.

Can I choose someone to make healthcare choices for me?

Yes. You may tell your doctor that you want someone else to make healthcare decisions for you. Ask the doctor to list that person as your healthcare "surrogate" in your medical record. The surrogate's control over your medical decisions is effective only during treatment for your current illness or injury, or during your current stay in a medical facility.

What if I become too sick to make my own decisions?

If you haven't named a surrogate, your doctor will ask your closest available relative or friend to help decide what is best for you. This approach usually works. But sometimes, not everyone agrees about what to do. That's why it’s helpful to decide in advance what you want to happen if you can't speak for yourself.

Do I have to wait until I'm sick?

No. For the peace of mind of you and your loved ones, it’s better to make healthcare decisions before you get very sick or have to go into a hospital, nursing home, or other healthcare facility.

You can use an advance healthcare directive to say who you want to speak for you and what kind of treatments you want. These documents are called "advance" because you prepare one before healthcare decisions need to be made. They are called "directives" because they state who will speak on your behalf and what should be done.

In California, the part of an advance directive you can use to appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions is called a Power of Attorney for Healthcare. The part where you can express your choices for your care is called an Individual Healthcare Instruction.

Who can make an advance directive?

You can make an advance directive if you are 18 years or older and are capable of making your own medical decisions. You don’t need a lawyer.

Who can I name as my agent?

You can choose an adult relative or any person you trust to speak for you when medical decisions must be made.

When does my agent begin making my medical decisions?

Usually, a healthcare agent will make decisions only after you lose the ability to make them yourself. But, if you wish, you can state in the Power of Attorney for Healthcare that you want the agent to begin making decisions immediately.

How does my agent know what I would want?

After you choose your agent, talk to that person about what you want. Sometimes, treatment decisions are hard to make, and it helps if your agent knows what you want. You can also write your wishes down in your advance directive.

What if I don't want to name an agent?

You can still write out your wishes in your advance directive without naming an agent. You can say that you want to live as long as possible. Or you can say that you wouldn’t want treatment to continue your life in certain situations. You also can express your wishes about the use of pain relief or any other type of treatment.

Even if you have not filled out a written Individual Healthcare Instruction, you can ask your doctor to list your wishes in your medical record. You can also discuss your wishes with your family members or friends. But it will probably be easier to follow your wishes if you write them down.

What if I change my mind?

You can change or cancel your advance directive at any time as long as you can communicate your wishes. To change the person you want to make your healthcare decisions, you must sign a statement or tell the doctor in charge of your care.

What happens when someone else makes decisions about my care?

The same rules apply to anyone who makes healthcare decisions on your behalf — a healthcare agent, a surrogate whose name you gave to your doctor, or a person appointed by a court to make decisions for you. All are required to follow your healthcare instructions or, if none, your general wishes about treatment, including stopping treatment.

If your treatment wishes are unknown, the surrogate must try to determine what is in your best interest.

Your healthcare providers must follow your agent or surrogate's decisions unless a requested treatment would be bad medical practice or ineffective. If this causes a disagreement that can’t be resolved, the provider must try to find another provider to take over your treatment.

Will I still be treated if I don't make an advance directive?

Absolutely. You will still get medical treatment. We just want you to know that if you become too sick to make decisions, someone else will have to make them for you.

How can I get more information?

Ask your doctor, nurse, social worker, or healthcare provider for more information about making an advance directive. Consider attending a free workshop at Montage Health.

Completing forms and paperwork valid in California

A lawyer can write an advance directive for you. If you prefer to do it yourself, you can choose one of these options:

  • Download, print, and complete our free advance care directive forms in English [PDF] or Spanish [PDF]
  • Attend our free workshop to complete your advance directives
  • Visit the PREPARE™ for Your Care website to learn about medical decision making, how to discuss your wishes with your loved ones and medical providers, and fill out an online advance directive form
  • Visit the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California website to access resources and download a Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form, which gives patients who are seriously ill more control over their end-of-life care

Free advance care planning workshops

Get expert guidance from a registered nurse and member of Montage Health's palliative medicine team. Attend a workshop to:

  • Start planning, thinking, and talking about what's important to you
  • Select the best way to record your wishes
  • Review any advance planning documents you have to be certain they're current and clear
  • Determine who will be your spokesperson and clarify your wishes
  • Submit your documents into your Montage Health and Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula medical record

Your rights, the law, and our policies

Rest assured that Montage Health follows federal requirements to inform you of your rights as a patient, including your right to make decisions about your health known.

When we'll ask about your advance directives

If you're admitted to Community Hospital, we’ll ask whether you have completed an advance directive (also called a Power of Attorney for Healthcare) to appoint your healthcare "agent." (The Patient Self-Determination Act and the Healthcare Decision Law require us to ask this.) Even if you have this document, discuss your healthcare wishes with your physician.

You may change any portion of the Power of Attorney for Healthcare by telling your physician about your new decisions or wishes.

Attend a free workshop

Search our calendar for upcoming online and in-person advance care planning workshops.

Upcoming Events

  • Oct
    10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
    Plan for and talk about what you want when it comes to serious illness and end-of-life care. Taking these steps now will reduce stress later.
  • Nov
    10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
    Plan for and talk about what you want when it comes to serious illness and end-of-life care. Taking these steps now will reduce stress later.
  • Nov
    4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
    Plan for and talk about what you want when it comes to serious illness and end-of-life care. Taking these steps now will reduce stress later.
  • Dec
    10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
    Plan for and talk about what you want when it comes to serious illness and end-of-life care. Taking these steps now will reduce stress later.