It’s important to get advance directives decided before you need them

If an accident or sudden illness leaves you unable to speak for yourself, your loved ones won’t know what you want without an advance care plan.

“Advance care planning is really for everybody,” said Dr. Stephanie Peterson, Senior National Medical Director with Optum’s Enterprise Clinical Performance. “You can do it in just three simple steps, discuss, decide and document.”

The first step is to choose an advocate who you would want to speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself.

“If you have a sudden illness, or even a car accident and it leaves you unable to speak, you really want somebody that you can trust, who would make decisions for you that you would make for yourself. It can be somebody that knows you well, somebody that understands how you make decisions if you’re not able. It can be anybody.”

The important thing is that once you’ve decided who that is, you need to write that decision and your other wishes down, so that it’s clear in case others who were not part of the decision making process try to come in and change things.

“Talk to them about, if they had to make a difficult decision, things like breathing tubes or feeding tubes, how should they decide what to do,” said Peterson. “Everybody’s priorities and wishes are a little bit different. Having this discussion with them really ensures that you’re going to recieve the care that you want and your loved ones won’t have to guess.”

For more information on advance directives, visit to find state-specific forms.