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Advance Planning Resources

The Importance of Advance Planning

Advance Directives permit an individual to plan ahead for the type of care they do or do not want to receive in the event that they become seriously ill and are unable to make medical decisions for themselves. Advance Directives can also give an individual, as well as their family, peace of mind and ensure that their wishes will be carried out.

Living Wills

A living will is a type of Advance Directive. It is a written document that specifies what actions an individual would like to be taken in the event that they are unable to communicate their wishes or can no longer make medical decisions. A living will allows an individual to direct another person, known as a “Health Care Agent,” to carry out their wishes to initiate, continue, withhold, or withdraw medical treatment. An individual can change or revoke a living will at any time.

Five Wishes

Five Wishes is a type of living will that addresses both an individual’s medical needs as well as their personal, emotional, and spiritual needs. It allows an individual to specifically state how they wish to be treated should they become seriously ill. For more information about Five Wishes, visit, call 1-888-594-7437, or talk to your doctor.

POLST (Pennsylvania Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment)

A POLST form directs emergency and medical personnel with clear orders on what actions an individual would like taken in the event of an emergency. Unlike an advance directive, a POLST form supports an individual’s wishes regarding unwanted emergency medical care such as CPR or transfer to a hospital. For more information visit the POLST section of the Aging Institute website and the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is a written document that allows an individual to appoint another person to handle their affairs should they become unable to do so themselves by illness or injury.


  • Conventional POA starts when an individual signs the document and ceases if and when the individual is no longer able to make decisions for themselves.  
  • Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) becomes effective upon signature and remains in effect until the individual terminates the document or passes away. 
An individual may wish to consult an attorney who can assist with drafting and completing these documents. Sample documents may also be found online. For more information contact the Pennsylvania Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service toll free at 1-800-692-7375.

Do You Have Your Five Wishes?

Five Wishes are your personal feelings on your care.
It lets your family and doctors know:
■ Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can't make them
■ The kind of medical treatment you want or don't want
■ How comfortable you want to be
■ How you want people to treat you
■ What you want your loved ones to know

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