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Advance Care Planning

Living WillIncrease the chances you’ll always get medical care that fits your values and beliefs by completing advance directive forms and sharing them with your loved ones, primary care provider and other caregivers.

What Is an Advance Directive?

As important legal documents, advance health care directives describe the medical care you want. They help your family, friends and doctors carry out your wishes even if you’re unable to communicate them.

North Carolina recognizes three types of advance directives:

Living Will

Also known as a treatment directive, a living will explains whether or not you want certain types of life-prolonging medical treatments, such as breathing machines and tube feeding, if you experience at least one of the following:

  • An incurable condition that will end your life within a short period of time
  • Unconsciousness with the expectation that you won’t regain consciousness
  • Advanced dementia or other substantial and irreversible loss of mental function

Health Care Power of Attorney

In a health care power of attorney document, you name someone to be your health care agent—to make health care decisions for you when you can’t speak for yourself. You may choose any competent adult who’s not your paid health care provider.

Your health care agent can make decisions about your care such as:

  • Choosing doctors and facilities
  • Determining mental health treatment
  • Reviewing and sharing your medical information
  • Starting or stopping life-prolonging measures

Visit our health library to learn more about choosing a health care agent.

Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment

An advance instruction for mental health treatment expresses your wishes for mental health care if you’re not able to communicate them. Mental health treatment includes:

  • Admission and retention in a facility for the care or treatment of mental illness
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT or “shock therapy”)
  • Psychoactive drugs (medications that affect your central nervous system)

Do I Need an Advance Directive?

All adults (18 years and older) benefit from creating advance directives. Advance directives can express both what you want and what you don’t want. You can update your advance directives at any time, as long as you’re mentally competent.

Advance directive laws vary from state to state. You may want to complete advance directives for each state you expect to receive medical treatment in.

En Español

¿Usted Necesita Directivas Anticipadas? [PDF]

Conversations You Should Have But Don’t: End of Life Care

Get Help Completing Advance Directives

Turn to a Cone Health chaplain or clinical social worker for free assistance completing your advance directive forms. Count on our thoughtful, supportive professionals to help you make health care decisions that fit your values, beliefs and priorities.

Community Education

Invite a Cone Health chaplain to speak to your church or community group about advance directives. You’ll benefit from education about these important legal documents and the opportunity to receive help filling out the forms.

Signing & Storing Your Advance Directives

In order for your advance directives to be valid, your signature on each document must be witnessed by:

  • Two people who aren’t related to you, entitled to any portion of your estate at death, or serve as your health care providers, and do not have a claim against your estate
  • A notary public

Keep your completed, signed advance directive forms where they can be found when needed, such as in your medical records at home, and in your hospice, home health care or nursing records. Give copies to your spouse and next of kin. You also may wish to give copies to your adult children, close friends, clergy or pastor, or other caregivers.

Download Advance Directives

Download free copies of advance directive forms in English or Spanish:

For assistance completing these forms, call the spiritual care department at 336-832-7950 or contact a clinical social worker at 336-832-7447.