Why You Need to Discuss an Advance Care Plan with Your 18-Year-Old

mother and daughter having a discussion

Turning 18 years old is a milestone birthday. It means the legal transition of a child to an adult.

While your child is celebrating with cake and a new feeling of independence, the last thing you or they are thinking about are health-care decisions. But you need to be.

Health-Care Privacy at Age 18

Once your child turns 18 and becomes a legal adult, they need to take a greater role in their own health-care. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides health-care privacy once a person turns 18. If your child experiences an injury or illness, you won’t automatically have access to information about their condition or be able to provide direction for their treatment, if they can’t speak for themselves.

That is why a great gift you can give your 18-year-old is to sit down with them and discuss an advance care plan and encourage them to establish a health-care power of attorney. 

It can be hard or “uncool” to talk about this topic with an excited 18-year-old, but it is very important. Explain to them that thinking about and expressing their wishes for their health-care should be considered a standard part of taking care of yourself.

What is an Advance Care Plan?

The two forms that are part of an advance care plan are also known as advance directives. These two forms are a healthcare power of attorney and a living will.

Health-Care Power of Attorney

A health-care power of attorney authorizes someone that your child chooses to make decisions on their behalf if they are medically unable to make the decisions on their own. 

Living Will

A living will lets a person express their wishes for specific medical treatment, in case they become unable to communicate their decisions on their own. 

Everyone, including an 18-year-old, is encouraged to complete both of these forms to make sure that medical providers and family members have accurate information about how they would want to receive care.

Hopefully these documents will not have to be used, but having these necessary protections in place will give you both you and your child peace of mind. 

As your child gets older and possibly starts their own family, they should periodically review and update these documents.

Our advance care planning resources include forms, education and other resources to help you complete the advance care planning process.

author name

Brian J. Young, M.D.

Brian J. Young, M.D., is a family medicine physician with LG Health Physicians Family Medicine Twin Rose and Medical Director, Care Transformation and Primary Care. He leads a system wide initiative to help increase the number of patients screened for colorectal cancer.

Dr. Young is a graduate of SUNY Upstate Medical University and the Lancaster General Hospital Residency Program.

Call: 717-684-9106

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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