Advance Care Planning | Patients & Visitors | UC Davis Health

Advance Care Planning

Advance care planning is making decisions about the care you would want to receive if you become unable to speak for yourself. Advanced care planning helps ensure that your treatment preferences as a patient are documented, regularly updated, and respected.

There are two documents used to record these preferences:

  • Advance health care directives
  • Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) forms

It’s good to discuss advance directives with your family, doctors, nurses and cleric while you are alert and feeling well. 

If you already have an advance health care directive, with or without a POLST form, please provide your medical team with a copy. If you can’t provide us with a copy, we can help you create a new document while you are here.

There is more information below, and you can also ask your bedside nurse for further information.

An advance health care directive is a form that you fill out to describe the kinds of medical care you want to have if something happens to you, and you can’t speak for yourself. It tells your family and your doctor what to do if you’re badly hurt or have a serious illness that keeps you from saying what you want. There are two main types:

  • Power of Attorney for Health Care: This lets you name a person to make treatment decisions for you when you can’t speak for yourself. This person is called a “health care agent” or “health care proxy.”

  • Living will: This tells your family and your doctor what kinds of treatment you want to receive as you near the end of your life and if you can no longer speak for yourself. A living will is also called a treatment directive.

As long as you can still make your own decisions, your advance health care directive won’t be used. You can stop or say “no” to treatment at any time.

I’ve never completed an “advance health care directive” before. Why should I?
Persons of all ages may unexpectedly be in a position where they can’t speak for themselves, such as an accident or a severe illness. An advance health care directive assures that your doctor knows your wishes about the kind of care you want, and/or knows who the person is that you want to make decisions on your behalf. And you can also indicate if there is someone who you do NOT want to make your decisions for you.

Why should I share my values and beliefs?
It is a good idea to talk with family or close friends about the things that are important to you regarding quality of life and how you would want to spend your last day and weeks. Knowing the things that are most important to you will help your loved ones make the best decisions possible on your behalf. If your agent doesn’t know your wishes, then he or she will decide based on what is in your best interest.

A Physicians Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is a physician order that helps give patients with chronic or serious illness more control over their care during times of serious illness.

POLST specifies the types of medical treatment that a patient wishes to receive towards the end of life. As a result, a POLST can prevent unwanted or medically ineffective treatment, reduce patient and family suffering, and help to ensure that your wishes as a patient are honored.

The POLST form complements an advance health care directive and is not intended to replace that document. An advance health care directive is still necessary to appoint a legal health care decision maker, and is recommended for all adults, regardless of their health status.

What if you want to change your advance directive or POLST form?
You can change or cancel your advance directive or POLST at any time. Just fill out new forms and get rid of your existing forms. Or you can just let your family, your doctor, and your health care agent know about the change.

All of us at UC Davis Health want you to understand your rights to make medical treatment decisions.

UC Davis Health complies with California laws and court decisions on advance directives. We do not condition care provided or otherwise discriminate against anyone based on whether or not an advance directive has been written. We have formal policies to ensure that your wishes about treatment will be followed.

If you have already prepared an advance directive, or should you choose to do so in the future, your responsibility is to provide a copy of it to the hospital so that it can be kept with our records. If you have questions about advance directives, you may contact one of the following UC Davis Health departments:

Clinical Social Services (24 hours)
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – 916-734-2583
After 5 p.m., weekends and holidays – 916-762-5585 (pager)

Patient/Guest Assistance
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – 916-734-5527