Advance Care Planning
in California

Advance care plans provide direction
to healthcare providers (HCP) when
a person is not in a position to make
and/or communicate their own
healthcare choices

Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning in California is an essential process that allows individuals to make decisions about the care they would want to receive if they become unable to speak for themselves. It’s about ensuring your values, beliefs, and preferences are understood and respected by your loved ones and healthcare providers. At End of Life Choices California (EOLCCA), we believe that advance care planning is a gift to yourself and those who care for you, providing clarity and peace of mind during life’s most challenging moments.

The Importance of Advance Care Planning

Advance care planning is a process that enables individuals to make plans about their future health care. Advance care planning is applicable to adults at all stages of life. Participation in advance care planning has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety for patients and their families, and lead to improvements in end of life care. By making these decisions in advance, you relieve your loved ones of the burden of guessing what you would want, reducing stress and potential conflicts during critical times.

Advance Care Planning Checklist

Steps to Creating Your Advance Care Plan

  1. Reflect on Your Values: Think about what matters most to you in life and how these values should guide decisions about your healthcare. Consider experiences you’ve had with family or friends’ medical treatments and how they have shaped your views.
  2. Choose Your Healthcare Agent: Select a trusted individual who understands your wishes and is willing to advocate on your behalf. This person will act as your healthcare power of attorney (or proxy) if you’re unable to make decisions for yourself.
  3. Communicate Your Wishes: Have open and honest conversations with your chosen healthcare agent, loved ones, and healthcare providers about your preferences for end-of-life care. These discussions ensure everyone understands your desires and can honor them.
  4. Document Your Wishes: Complete an Advance Directive document, which includes a Living Will and a Power of Attorney for Healthcare. This legal document outlines your healthcare preferences and names your healthcare agent.
  5. Review and Update Regularly: Life changes, and so might your healthcare preferences. Review your advance care plan regularly and update it as necessary to reflect your current wishes.

The Power of Sharing Your Story

Sharing your advance care planning experience can inspire others to take this important step. Consider sharing your story with us, whether it’s about the conversations you’ve had, how you selected your healthcare agent, or the peace of mind you’ve found in having an advance care plan. Your story can light the way for others navigating their own advance care planning journey.  Contact Us to share YOUR story!

Informed decisions about Advance Care Planning

Having the Conversation

One of the most productive ways to help patients as they approach the end of life is to encourage them to have a conversation with their loved ones about their preferences for treatment and end-of-life wishes. This conversation should include family members, friends, Health Care Providers, and religious or spiritual leaders—anyone in the patient’s life and involved with their care. In addition to promoting this conversation, you can enable itLearn more about Having the Conversation.

Talking to Your Family and Loved Ones

Direct Questions: What’s most important to you as you think about how you want to live at the end of your life? What do you value most? Thinking about this will help you get ready to have the conversation.  Think about who is the most important person to talk with: your partner or spouse, parent, child? Who is the person whom you would like to represent you if you cannot speak for yourself? Think about when is the best time to talk? More About Talking to Your Family and Loved Ones.

Talking to Your Physician

Even if you are young and healthy, it is important to have an advance care planning conversation with your physician. If you are over age 65 and/or you have a serious chronic illness, it is even more important to have this conversation with your physician. It is never too early to provide a “road map” for your physician and your loved ones to let them know what matters most to you and to guide your care. Learn More about Talking to Your Physician.

Keep your Advance Care Planning documents up to date

Advance Directives

Every adult needs an advance directive for health care (AD).  Ideally, this includes both a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney, or Health Proxy. Regardless of age and health status, we never know when some kind of an event might leave us unable to speak for ourselves. A previously written record of a person’s health care wishes is invaluable if that person is not able to make or communicate decisions about his or her desired medical care. Learn more about Advance Directives.


Living Will

This part of the Advance Directive allows you to specify which kinds of treatment and care you desire if you are unable to speak for yourself.


Durable Power of Attorney

Also Health Care Proxy, Agent, Surrogate or Representative — the designation of someone to make decisions if you are unable to speak for yourself.


California’s Advance Directive

The form to give instructions about your own health care or name someone else, and express your wishes for organ donation, etc.



Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment is designed to help medical professionals honor the end-of-life wishes of their patients.


Out-of-Hospital DNR

Usually requested to avoid unwanted medical interventions according to specific end-of-life health care wishes.


Dementia Provisions

 This communication tool  provides a way to share your views with loved ones, when they’re making decisions on your behalf.

Contact a Volunteer

If you have questions, would like to discuss advance care planning further, or need help preparing your advance directives, please contact us.  A volunteer will follow up with you to find out how we can assist.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
About End of Life Planning in California

What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance care planning is a process enabling individuals to make plans about their future health care. It applies to adults at all life stages, aiming to reduce stress for patients and families by improving end-of-life care. Learn more about advance care planning.

How to Have the Conversation About End-of-Life Wishes?

Encouraging conversations about end-of-life wishes with loved ones, healthcare providers, and spiritual advisors is crucial. These discussions should focus on treatment preferences and values regarding life’s end. Guidance on starting the conversation.

Why is an Advance Directive Important?

An Advance Directive, comprising a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney, is essential for everyone, allowing you to specify your healthcare wishes if you cannot speak for yourself. More on advance directives.

What is a Living Will?

A Living Will lets you outline your desired medical treatment and care types if you’re unable to communicate your decisions. It covers your wishes regarding life-sustaining procedures. Explore Living Wills.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

This document designates someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated, ensuring your healthcare wishes are respected. Learn about Health Care Proxy.

What is POLST and How Does It Work?

The Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) documents your end-of-life wishes in a medical order, making them accessible to healthcare providers across settings. Understanding POLST.

What is an Out-of-Hospital DNR?

An Out-of-Hospital Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order informs emergency medical services of your wish not to receive CPR or other life-saving measures in an emergency. More on DNR orders.

How Can Dementia Provisions Support End-of-Life Planning?

A Living Will for Dementia allows you to specify your medical intervention preferences at various dementia stages, helping loved ones make decisions aligned with your wishes. Explore dementia provisions.

Further Reading

Additional Resources for End of Life Planning

Explore these resources for more information on Advance Care Planning and making informed decisions about future healthcare needs:

  • National Institute on Aging: Advance Care Planning – Offers guidance on healthcare directives for older adults, including how to prepare and discuss plans.
  • American Cancer Society: Advance Directives – Provides information on advance directives for individuals with cancer, covering how to create and use these legal documents.
  • AARP: State-by-State Advance Directive Forms – Offers free, printable advance directive forms tailored to the legal requirements of each state, making it easier to prepare these essential documents.
  • National POLST – Dedicated to promoting the understanding and use of POLST for those with serious illnesses or frailty towards the end of life, this site provides resources for patients and healthcare providers.
  • PREPARE for Your Care – An interactive website that guides individuals through the process of advance care planning, ensuring they are prepared to communicate their wishes effectively.

Feeling overwhelmed?

We are here to help.  Our highly-trained volunteers are available to explain the current California law in detail and walk you and your family through the process from beginning to end.  

“Thank you for the workshop and your work in end of life care. I hope this contribution helps the cause.” C.H.