What is Advance Care Planning?

It is never too early to think about what is most important to you should your health change. While it can be hard to think about a time when you are sick or unable to make decisions for yourself, the earlier you plan, the better chance we have of giving you the medical care that is right for you.

At Ochsner, we want your voice to be heard and your wishes respected, no matter your medical condition. Maybe you have had experiences with people close to you who have been sick. Have you visited loved ones in the ICU or hospital? Or perhaps you have watched people get sick on TV or in movies.

Reflecting on these situations can be a good first step in the process of advance care planning.

What are Advance Directives?

An advance directive is a legal document that provides instructions that specify what kind of treatment should be given to a person when that individual is unable to make decisions or speak for him/herself. It is usually completed in advance of any known illness and can be specific or vague.

There are three advance care planning documents available.

Living Will:

This is a legal document that states what kinds of treatment should be given to us when we can no longer make decisions or speak for ourselves. It only goes into effect if we are suddenly ill or have lost decision-making capacity, and it is usually completed in advance of any known illness. We complete it ourselves, and unless there are other known facts, it must be honored. To become valid, it must include the signatures of two witnesses.

Healthcare Power of Attorney:

This document authorizes someone else to make decisions about our health care when we are no longer able to make those decisions or speak for ourselves.

Louisiana Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (LaPOST):

The LaPOST document is more than an advance directive or health care power of attorney. It's a medical order that is completed only after we - or our health care representatives - have discussed our goals of care and treatment preferences with our physician when we have a life limiting and irreversible condition. When completed, it must be followed by all health care professionals. The LaPOST document may complement the advance directive by translating it into a physician's order.

How to Start the Conversation about Advance Care Planning

Learn more in this guide: How To Start The Conversation About Advance Care Planning

Completing Advance Directives Documents

Any person age 18 or older who can make his or her own decisions can complete an advance directive. Forms are easy to complete and we are here to help you. You do not need a lawyer to complete our forms, however, the forms need to be:

  • Dated
  • Signed by the patient or healthcare representative
  • Signed by two witnesses, not related to the patient by blood or marriage and not entitled to any portion of the patient’s estate.

It is important to review your forms with those who will honor them for you every year or with any changes in your health or personal life to make sure they still reflect your wishes. You may cancel or revoke documents on file with Ochsner at any time verbally or in writing.

Copies should be given to your doctor and others you want to know of your wishes. If you should go to the hospital, bring a copy of your documents if not already on file. Keep your original documents in an easy to find location.

Advance Directives Forms (Printable)

If you are unable to download and print the documents, please ask for assistance at your next appointment.


What’s an advance directive?

Advance directives are your opportunity to plan ahead. A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that tells your healthcare team who to talk to about your medical care, in the event that you get sick and can’t talk to us directly. A living will is a legal document that’s more focused on the kind of treatments you would or would not want to receive if you had a sudden illness or serious advanced illness.

Does this mean I’m really sick?

We really believe that this is important information for us to have for all our patients at Ochsner, regardless of whether they’re sick or not. It’s about being prepared for a sudden severe illness or unexpected health event.

Do I have to choose my spouse?

No, you can choose whomever you want, including a friend, same-sex partner, or family member other than your spouse. If you can, choose someone and also a back-up. Some tips: it should be someone who you feel comfortable talking to about your health, someone who can stick up for what you want. Ideally this person lives close to you and would be able to be available to you.

What should I tell this person?

There are some helpful websites that can guide you through this conversation: www.theconversationproject.org and www.PrepareForYourCare.org.

What should I do if I can’t find copies of the forms I previously filled out?

This commonly happens and can be solved by filling out another copy of the form. The most important location for this document is in your medical chart.

So, if you can’t locate your completed form, then follow this link, to download a copy to fill out and bring to your next doctor visit.

How can I find out more about Advance Care Planning and my faith tradition?

More information on this topic can be found here.
This video from the Archdiocese of New Orleans is an additional resource.

Helpful Resources:

These websites are designed to make medical decision making easier for patients and caregivers.

  • Introduction to Advance Directives: Please watch the video below.

Ochsner LSU Health Honors Advance Directives

Ochsner will honor all valid living wills/declarations and powers of attorney for health care decisions properly brought to the attention of an appropriate Ochsner representative. The honoring of such advance directives shall be done in strict in accordance with state and federal laws governing such directives. Ochsner will not discriminate on admission or provision of care based upon the execution of an advance directive. A situation might arise, however, when your advance directive will not be implemented due to the medical judgment or conscience of individual health care providers. In these cases, Ochsner will attempt to resolve the disagreement or develop other options. Any questions you may have regarding above may be directed to the Patient and Provider Advocacy Department at any Ochsner facility 504-842-4000.

You have a right to make a complaint against a health care provider relative to advance directives requirements. Complaints regarding non-compliance by a hospital should be directed to the Department of Health and Hospitals, Health Standards Section, at 1-866-280-7737. The State of Louisiana, through the Department of Health and Hospitals, has developed this statement of your rights under Louisiana law.

None of the foregoing is meant to be legal advice nor is it intended to take the place of counsel, which can be provided by an attorney you may consult on your own.