Patient and Family Resources

Most Americans have strong feelings about how they want to die. But most also have not discussed their wishes with their doctors or loved ones. That means they may not receive the care they want at the end of their lives.

Conversations about the end of life can be difficult, but the Institute for Human Caring can help. We are working with families and caregivers to make sure that medical care reflects a patient’s personal values and preferences. This is called whole person care.

To receive whole person care, here are some things to think about:

  • What kind of medical treatment do you want?
  • Where do you want to spend your days as you near the end of your life -- at home or in a hospital?
  • What is most important to you at this time?
  • How can your family and caregivers can best support you?
  • Who would you want to speak for you if you were too ill to speak for yourself?

Advance directives


The next step is to prepare an advance directive. This document allows you to name someone to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. This person will make sure your wishes are honored.

All of us could face serious illness or injury at any age. That’s why the Institute for Human Caring believes everyone 18 and older should have an advance directive.

An advance directive provides this key information for your doctor and family:

  • It says what kind of medical treatment you want.
  • It says who can make decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself.

Advance directives can be simple or detailed. You can simply name someone to make decisions on your behalf. Or you can include instructions for treatments such as CPR and mechanical ventilation. If you change your mind about a decision, you can revise your advance directive at any time.  Completing an advance directive can also ease the stress on family members faced with critical decisions.

Five simple steps to completing an advance directive

  1. Choose a person to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself.
  2. Think about your values and goals for care if you are seriously ill.
  3. Write down your wishes in an advance directive.
  4. Have two people witness you sign the advance directive and acknowledge your signature. Or sign the form in front of a notary public.
  5. Share your advance directive with your family, caregivers and physicians. 

Download and print your advance directive for:

Have the talk

Need help preparing for conversations with loved ones and your physician? These sites can help:


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