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Although we cannot take our health for granted and it is a fact that we cannot escape death and dying, these are truths we often don’t feel very comfortable with. If we confront ourselves with these facts and want to be practical about it, there are ways to take action in advance that will be of support to ourselves and our family. This is called advance care planning.

Advance care planning is not just about old age. At any age, a medical crisis could leave you too ill to make your own health care decisions. Even if you are not sick now, planning for health care in the future is an important step toward making sure you get the medical care you would want.

Planning for your medical care ahead of time involves learning about the types of decisions that might need to be made, considering your preferred decisions, and then informing others - your family and your health care providers- about them. These preferences are often mentioned in an advance directive, a legal document that goes into effect only if you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. This could be the result of disease or severe injury - no matter how old you are. It helps doctors and family members know what type of medical care you want.

An advance directive also allows you to express your values and desires related to end-of-life care. You might think of it as a living document- one that you can adjust as your situation changes because of new information or a change in your health.

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