This site is not supported on your current browser.
For the full Abramson Senior Care experience, please use a more recent browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome.

What is an Advance Directive?

What is an Advance Directive?

What is an Advance Directive?

Tuesday April 27, 2021

Talking about the end-of-life is never easy. Most tend to ignore the topic until it becomes unavoidable, leaving caregivers to make tough decisions that may or may not line up with their loved one’s wishes.

That’s why discussing healthcare through the end of life and completing an advance directive can be incredibly helpful to caregivers and ultimately reassuring to patients – all parties are on the same page about what type of care is in alignment with a patient’s wishes if they become unable to respond for themselves. While difficult to address, the relief of having the discussion is beneficial in the long run.

What is an advance directive?

Advanced directives are patient directed written legal documents that dictate how health care should be carried out in case of incapacitation. A lawyer isn’t needed to draw up advance directives, but every state does have their own laws regarding how they should be written. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has a list of each state’s guidelines, which you can find here.

Ideally, advanced directives are drawn up before illness or injury occurs, meaning that a conversation with loved ones should happen while in good health.

Having the conversation

If you want to take the first steps to have the conversation with your loved one – either preparing your own directive or bringing the subject up with your older loved one – there are number of tips that can help make the conversation go smoothly.

  • Schedule a set time to talk. As with any important conversation, schedule some time to talk with your loved ones that is set aside specifically to discuss what an advance directive is and why it is important. Make sure distractions are minimal and you are in a calm, quiet environment. Let them know beforehand what you wish to talk about so that they aren’t blindsided by the topic.
  • State your thoughts and reasons calmly and respectfully. Remember if you are a child approaching a parent, this is ultimately your parent’s decision. However, having some convincing reasons thought out beforehand can make sure the conversation stays on track and is productive.
  • Makes sure the conversation is give and take. It’s just as important to listen to what your loved one has to say as it is to talk. A two-way conversation builds trust between both parties and shows your loved one that you truly have their best interests at heart.
  • You may need more than one conversation. If your loved one is upset by the conversation, take a step back. Ask them if they will think about it on their own time and if it is ok if you revisit the topic with them some time in the future. It may be helpful to have some information to leave with them. We list a few resources below that may be useful throughout your conversations.


At Abramson Senior Care, our Palliative Care and Hospice programs use the following resources to help guide families through the process of putting together an advance directive.

Both offer useful templates and educational resources on how to have a productive, loving conversation.

Healthcare and end-of-life discussions are rarely easy to begin, but having clear instructions regarding care can make sure that the patient’s wishes are being carried out. Taking the steps to start this conversation sooner rather than later can ultimately bring comfort to all involved.

If you have questions about end-of-life care, please call Abramson care managers at 215.371.3400.