Beginning the Conversation

Whether it’s with a family member, friend, or your doctor, starting the conversation around advance directives can seem like an overwhelming thing to do, but BayCare’s here to help. Below are some topics and tips that can help you think about what you may want as you begin this crucial conversation. As you read on, it’s important to remember:

  • You can always revisit your decisions and update these forms as often as you would like. When you update forms, be sure to provide updated copies to your surrogate, family members, friends, and physician.
  • Circumstances change in life, so keeping the conversation open is important.


Advance directives like a designation of health care surrogate and living will can help to communicate what’s valuable to you about medical care.

Talk about your basic beliefs and fears about health, illness, and end of life.

  • Do you believe that life should be preserved at all costs?
  • Is religion or spirituality important to you?
  • Are some medical treatments against your beliefs?
  • What are your fears? Fears about pain, losing the ability to think or communicate, being a financial burden on your loved ones, and being removed from life support too soon are all common and normal fears.
  • Is there a point at which your quality of life becomes the most important thing to you?

Talking about these with those you trust can help you determine how you feel and what health care decisions are right for you.

Health Status:

When completing these forms, think about your current health status. Realize that this status can change in rapid and unexpected ways. For example, as you consider the type of medical care you may want in the future, consider the following:

  • What is your current health situation? Are you relatively healthy?
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with an illness, what is your prognosis? You would want to talk to your doctor about different treatment options in the chance you could regain health or extend your life. Additionally, be sure to discuss how long any treatment would be and its costs.
  • How do you feel about not being able to care for yourself, such as having a professional or family member bathe and feed you?

Predicting how you will feel in the future can be hard. It may be easier to think about a specific situation.

Below are some situations to think though. Keep your values in mind as you consider each of these situations:

  • You’ve just been in a major car accident and have suffered head trauma and cannot communicate or care for yourself. Would you want to be fed through a tube and live in a full-time care center if you do not fully recover?
  • You have Alzheimer’s disease and live with a family member whom you no longer recognize. You’ve had pneumonia three times this year, and your family member is struggling with the cost of your care.  The next time, do you want all possible health care to help you fight this disease? Or would you prefer comfort care until death?
  • After suffering a stroke, you’ve been in a vegetative state for over a year. Your doctors don’t expect you to recover. Do you want to continue the use of life support?

Tips to Start the Conversation

Below are some tips to help you begin the conversation around your medical wishes and advance directives with your family, friends, doctors, etc.:

  • Current Events: Use situations or stories about current local, national or global events to help you bring up the conversation about advance directives and medical care. Share what type of care you would want if you were in those situations.
  • Situations around you: In some situations, consider using the personal stories of another family member(s) or friend as a topic of conversation with your loved ones, spiritual advisors, doctors, etc. Sharing a real, tangible story can help you lead into your own conversation about your medical wishes with those close to you.
  • New Year, New You: The New Year is a time when many people decide to make changes. Use this time to talk with those close to you about any changes you’re making in your life, including a discussion around advance directives and your wishes. Talk about any medical care you may or may not want

Download our designation of health care surrogate and living will form in English and Spanish. You can also download our free Guide to Advance Directives or request a free printed version by completing the form on the main Advance Directives page.