Advance Care Planning: What is it and Why do I need it?

Tamara Kushnir Groman, JD, Legal and Financial Educator

Living longer and healthier lives is a blessing. Advancements in medical treatments, home modifications, and home care have all allowed adults to age in their homes for much longer than ever before. However, as we age, our needs change. Being prepared for life’s challenges makes weathering them much smoother.


Advance care planning is not an event, it is a process. Through the process, an individual will plan for life’s uncertainties, and some distant certainties as well. Despite our best efforts, aging may not always be perfect. Maintaining independence for as long as possible requires a bit of thoughtful advance care planning.

The first step in advance care planning is filling out important legal documents. The two initial documents are a power of attorney for healthcare and power of attorney for finances (called “property” in legal terms). In these documents, you choose an agent to act in the event you are unable to do so. Research shows that having these documents prepared helps people achieve better health outcomes, including living better lives and dying better deaths.

The second step in advance care planning is thinking about what life might look like if and when your needs change. Sharing your values and your vision of aging with your agent and your loved ones can help make it a reality.

Some key questions to ask yourself and your loved ones include:

  • In the event I cannot make decisions for myself, have I chosen someone to make those decisions for me? Does the person who will make healthcare decisions for me know what matters most to me about how I want to live my life?
  • If I need help in my day-to-day activities, who can I call upon?
  • How can I manage my assets so I can age in place comfortably and safely?

These questions are not easy, and the answers will likely change over time, so they should be reviewed regularly.

Don’t let not having a lawyer keep you from getting your legal questions answered or starting the process of advance care planning. The new CJE Legal Help Desk is available to assist you with free legal consultation, advice, and referrals. To schedule an in-person or virtual appointment, contact: Tamara Kushnir Groman at 773.508.1086 or LegalHelpDesk@cje.net.