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New Native American Advance Care Planning Guide

Jan 9, 2023

My Advance Care Plan & Guide for Native Americans The Center for Rural Health (CRH), in partnership with the National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative (NIEJI), has released a new product: the My Advance Care Plan & Guide for Native Americans. Designed to assist Indigenous individuals in planning for health and end of life decisions, the Guide will also help people share their decisions with loved ones.

It is always hard to think about the end of life, and often, those discussions are not had in Indigenous communities. This lack of discussion can leave questions if someone is incapacitated or suffers a major medical event, and family members, loved ones, and caretakers may not know which decisions are in line with the person's wishes. The culturally-appropriate guide is intended to help encourage discussions and allow Indigenous elderly individuals to put their wishes into writing.

A Valuable Tool

Jacque Gray Explaining how she got the idea of a local end-of-life guide after seeing a similar document developed by the Māori people of Aotearoa in New Zealand, Dr. Jacque Gray, director of NIEJI, said that she "felt this could be a valuable tool for many of our Elders and their families, and received permission to adapt it for the Indigenous peoples throughout the United States."

Sections of the guide include:

  • What is important to you now
  • How you like to make decisions
  • What care and treatment you would like in the future
  • What is important to you after your death

Gray added that she wanted to ensure the document was not only culturally-appropriate, but respected the traditions and values of the various tribes/bands/clans throughout the country.

"We chose language and images that would help members of all tribes feel more comfortable while thinking about difficult situations," she said.

Asking Questions

The guide asks individuals who they want making medical decisions on their behalf. It addresses concerns such as what worries them about the future, what type of medical care they prefer (medicine/treatment), what is their preferred end-of-life environment, and how they want to be laid to rest. It also respects readers for whom speaking of future death and dying is counter to tradition.

Brad Gibbens CRH works with tribal communities to help improve health outcomes and well-being for American Indians and assists to prevent and bring awareness to elder abuse through the work of NIEJI.

"The Center of Rural Health is focused on helping Indigenous Elders live healthier lives," said Brad Gibbens, acting director of CRH. "Having the ability to encourage individuals to take control of their health and end-of-life decisions and make their wishes known, is something we are proud to be a part of."

For More Information

The My Advance Care Plan & Guide for Native Americans is available online. For more information please visit or email NIEJI.