Children and Teens

A Word About Advance Care Planning for Children and Teens with Serious Illness

Father-Son-at-PianoPersons under the age of 18 cannot legally sign advance directive documents; their parents or legal guardians are responsible for their medical decisions.

When a baby, child, or teen faces serious illness, parents can meet with healthcare professionals and develop an advance care plan. Older children and, especially, teens can have a voice in putting together the advance care plan.

The plan outlines in writing the parents’/child’s preferences for care in case of an emergency situation or in cases where all treatment options have been explored.

If you are caring for a seriously ill child, here’s what to do:

  • Request a family conference with your physician and primary nurse. You may also want to include a social worker, spiritual advisor, or close family friend.
  • Discuss with your doctor/nurse their plan of care for your child, including palliative care for pain, uncomfortable symptoms, and emotional-psychological-spiritual support.
  • Discuss whether a Colorado CPR directive might be appropriate for your child in case of an emergency.
  • If appropriate, talk over choices and likely results with your child and include him or her in your decisions. As parents, you have the final say, but even young children can benefit from being included in the decision making.