What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance Care Planning is the process of deciding your health care and personal wishes should you ever lose the capacity to make these decisions for yourself in the future. It also involves appointing someone to make these decisions for you, should you be unable, and ensuring that this chosen person (substitute decision-maker – SDM) understands your wishes.

Common Misconceptions

Your health care team will provide options that are available and required to get consent from you or your family. It is common for members of a loving family to disagree as to what the “right” decision is during a crisis. It is extremely difficult for anyone to be in a position of having to guess their loved one’s wishes.

As we all know, medical crises arise every day. Advance Care Planning helps you and your family be prepared should an emergency happen. Also, nursing homes and hospitals require that you complete advance care directives at the time of admission, regardless of your current health status.

Directives are clear statements as to what level of intervention you want should you suffer from a health crisis. Hospitals request directives from patients entering the hospital for routine procedures, in case of an emergency.

Plan ahead and be ready. Every adult should have an Advance Care Plan.

You might want to accept life-sustaining treatments if they are likely to restore your health to a reasonable level, but depending on your condition, they may only serve to prolong a very poor quality of life.

For example, there may be a high risk of brain damage and living the rest of your life on a ventilator.

For these reasons, it is still important to make your wishes known.

First of all, your SDM only makes decisions for you if you are not capable of making them yourself. Secondly, you should only choose someone that you trust implicitly to honour your wishes.

Steps for Advance Care Planning

  • Think about what happens when you are not able to make health care decisions for yourself. Under what circumstances, if any, would you not want your life prolonged?
  • Learn about what interventions are most likely to be considered (e.g. CPR, ventilation, tube feeding, etc.)
  • Decide who you would want to make these decisions for you should you be unable (Substitute Decision Maker or Attorney for Personal Care).
  • Talk to this person and share your thoughts and concerns. Discuss with this person, interventions you would never want, always want, and those you are not sure about.
  • Talk to anyone else who you think will want to have input under such circumstances. Informing only your SDM puts that person in a difficult situation if others believe that your choices would be different.
  • For optimum clarity, write down your wishes.
  • If you choose, legal advice may be helpful.

For more information, visit the Speak Up website.