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Discussing Your Wishes with Others

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Discussing Your Wishes with Others

Should I discuss my wishes?

Yes, absolutely. Before documenting your wishes, talk with your loved ones about your preferences so they are aware of your choices. Sometimes putting your wishes down on paper just isn’t enough. Having a trusted advocate and family members who are aware of your preferences is just as important. This should be a two-sided conversation.

You should also have the conversation with your physician and other members of your health care team.

Where do I start?

For a lot of people, this can be a very difficult conversation to start. There is often fear associated with talking about death and dying. All of us have a health journey from birth to death, and talking about this issue early when we’re healthy is much easier. We offer the Conversation Starter Kit and Five Wishes booklet to get started.

How should I document my wishes?

Use the Five Wishes booklet to complete necessary advance care planning documents. This includes a durable power of attorney on page four and a living will on pages six and seven. Be sure to sign on page 10 and have two people witness your signature. Submit the booklet to your primary care provider and your hospital to become part of your shared care plan in your electronic health record.

Who should have a copy of my wishes?

You should make a copy for yourself as well as family or other loved ones involved in your health care decision-making process. You should also put a copy in the glove box of your car and your suit case when you travel.

How do I choose a durable power of attorney for health care (health care proxy/agent)?

This is an extremely important decision, as this person will be the one to represent your wishes and choose treatments when you’re unable to speak for yourself. You should choose a person who can stand up for you and make decisions quickly on your behalf. Choose someone you believe will be comfortable speaking with doctors and others on your health care team. As long as the person is 18 or older, you can choose a family member or a friend.

What if I don't leave instructions or name a person who will make health care decisions for me?

If you become unable to express your wishes about your medical care or treatment and do not leave instructions regarding your wishes or name a person who will make decisions for you, a health care provider may ask your family or the courts to make decisions about your care and treatment.

What if I have expressed my wishes orally about treatment but have not put my wishes in writing?

Oral directions you have given to your physician or your family will sometimes be followed by health care providers, depending on how detailed and recent those instructions were. You may wish to tell your personal physician and your family your wishes about future treatment, even if you choose not to sign some sort of advance directive. This is why it is so important to have continuing discussions with your family. This may reduce anxiety and guilt experienced by family members when wishes are not known.

Do I have to write a living will or durable power of attorney for health care?

No, it's your decision. A living will and durable power of attorney will only help you have your wishes known and honored for the treatments you want or don’t want at the end of your life.

If a living will and durable power of attorney is written in your state of residence, is it recognized in other states?

The law varies from state to state. Your doctor, hospital or a judge may use such documents to determine who will make decisions about your care and what those decisions will be.

Who should I contact if I have more questions about Horizon Planning and my advance care plan?

Please contact Roberta Geidner, Horizon/Advance Care Planning Coordinator at (717) 812-6065 or

In addition, these agencies are also available to provide resources and assistance for advance care planning:

Healthy York County Coalition
Your Life Your Wishes Taskforce
605 S. George St., Suite 160
York, PA 17401
(717) 851-2333

Healthy Adams County
Healthy Life Committee
424 S. Washington St.
Gettysburg, PA 17325
(717) 337-4413

Community Health Council of Lebanon County
Age Wave Initiative
605 Cumberland St.
Lebanon, PA 17042
(717) 273-8893

Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman
PA Department of Aging
400 Market St., 7th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101-2301
(717) 783-7274

Pennsylvania Council on Aging
400 Market St., 6th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101-2301
(717) 783-1924