Advance Care Planning

Feel confident that you’ll get the health care you want—even when you’re no longer able to communicate with your doctors or loved ones. Talk with your care team at Essentia Health about creating a legal document that puts your wishes in writing.

What’s Advance Care Planning?

Advance care planning is a process that helps you think and talk about your choices for health care in the future. It is important for every adult to have an advance directive, which is also known as a health care directive or living will. This written plan allows loved ones and health care providers to follow your wishes if an accident or illness makes you unable to speak for yourself.

Advance care planning visits help you to:

  • Learn about life-sustaining treatments
  • Discuss your values, beliefs, and preferences
  • Talk about your goals for medical treatments
  • Decide what type of treatments you do or don’t want if you’re affected by a life-limiting condition
  • Prepare legal documents called "advance directives"

Medical Insight: Advance Care Planning

Medical Insight: Advance Care Planning - Essentia Health

Text, Medical Insight. The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle.

Welcome to Medical Insight, a weekly health care feature brought to you by the experts at Essentia Health. Here's your host, Louie St. George.

SPEAKER: Welcome to Medical Insight, a weekly health care feature brought to you by the experts at Essentia Health. Here's your host, Louie St. George.

A man in a suit and tie

LOUIE ST. GEORGE: Who will advocate for you during a time of serious illness or injury? Today on Medical Insight, Essentia Health's Wanda Paulsen and Dr. John Degelau talk about advance care planning. WANDA PAULSEN:

Wanda Paulsen, Advance Care Planning Program Manager

Advance care planning is the best way we have found to incorporate an individual's goals, values, and beliefs into the care that we provide. It's a way to think about, talk about, and write down your wishes for future health care, if ever a time happened where you couldn't speak for yourself. A lot of people think that it's for those that are very frail or elderly, or that we expect something could happen to them in the near future. But it's really important for everybody to start having those conversations. LOUIE ST. GEORGE: It's important to get a signed health care directive on file. Also, be sure to review it regularly in case your wishes change.

Dr. John Degelau -- Hospitalist Services

JOHN DEGELAU: In a way, when we look at advance care planning, it's kind of having some insurance about your hopes, wishes, things are important to you being respected. Advance care planning is an important thing that we all have to think about, because all of us in the course of our lives at some point are going to have a serious illness. If you're able to put these things down, that it really helps take the burden off family members that may have to deal with decisions for you in a time of crisis. LOUIE ST. GEORGE: Essentia offers advance care planning classes online. Learn more at For Medical Insight, I'm Louie St. George. SPEAKER:
To learn more about this and other health topics, visit

The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health. Medical Insight

What’s an Advance Directive/Health Care Directive?

Recording your wishes in writing is the best way to make sure your health care team and loved ones will be able to honor your wishes if you can't speak for yourself. A health care directive (advance directive) is a written legal document in which a person states goals, values and beliefs about health care treatment decisions, including who should make those decisions, in the event a person can no longer make those decisions for him/herself.

Health Care Agents

It is important to choose a “health care agent”—the person you would want to be your advocate if you are unable to speak for yourself. Choose someone who is willing to accept the responsibility, someone who knows you well, is calm in a crisis, and is not afraid to ask questions and explain your wishes to doctors. Include your agent in your advance care planning discussions.

How Can I Get Started?

To begin your advance care planning process:

  • Speak with your provider and find out if your clinic provides facilitated advance care planning visits or group classes
  • Choose your health care agent

Resources to Create Your Directive

Laws about advance directives vary by state. One state’s advance directive does not always work in another state. Learn about the rules where you live and find resources to create your advance directives below:


North Dakota


Where Should I Keep My Health Care Directive?

Keep the original copy of your signed and completed health care directive in an easily accessible and safe place at home. Give copies to your:

  • Health care agent
  • Family members or other loved ones who are likely to be involved in your health care
  • Primary care clinician or health care team and local hospital

Add Your Directive to Your Medical Record

You can also add your directive to your medical record by sending it to our Health Information Services department.

There are a few different ways to send it:

For More Information

Contact us at:

  • Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin - 218-786-5975
  • Central Minnesota - 218-828-7530
  • Eastern North Dakota and Western Minnesota - 701-364-4828

Essentia also offers advance care planning materials to patients via MyChart. More Information

For Catholics

Explore the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding end-of-life decision-making at You’ll find general resources as well as guidance approved by the bishop or archbishop in your area.

Video Resources

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