How to Make Your Plan
Advance care planning is a process, not just a document. It’s a conversation that you have with close family and friends. It’s a way to ensure that you receive the care that’s most important to you at the end of life.
How to begin
1. Think about what’s right for you
Begin by reflecting on your values, beliefs and understanding about end of life care and specific medical procedures. Think about any situations that you may have experienced with others and how you felt about their treatment. Ask yourself: If possible, would I prefer to die at home, in a hospice or in the hospital? Do I want or not want certain medical procedures (for example, CPR, feeding tubes) if I am unlikely to survive? Do I have any fears about dying (e.g. I’ll be in pain, I won’t be able to breathe)? What would be meaningful for me at the end of life (family/friends nearby, music playing, etc.)?
2. Learn about end of life care options and medical procedures
There are many different medical procedures that might be used at the end of life. Some people want those procedures, but others do not. Consult our list of advance care planning terms to help you decide what’s right for you.
Remember, when you are in pain or experiencing unpleasant symptoms such as dizziness or nausea, health care providers will always give you medicine and treatment to relieve those symptoms.
3. Determine who will make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapable of doing so
Think carefully about who you feel would be most capable of honouring and making medical decisions on your behalf. This may be a spouse, a trusted family member or a good friend. They will be your Substitute Decision Maker. Remember, legal requirements regarding the appointment of a Substitute Decision Maker vary across the country. Consult our list of provincial/territorial resources links for more information.
4. Have the Conversation
Now it’s time to have a conversation with your Substitute Decision Maker.
If you have written down your wishes, make sure that they have a copy, and that they feel comfortable making medical decisions on your behalf.
Your Substitute Decision Maker may find the conversation difficult, or may be relieved to know exactly what kind of care you would like to receive.
Don’t forget to tell others too – such as your doctor, other health care professionals involved in your care, your lawyer, financial and legal professionals and other family members or friends. It’s a good idea to provide your doctor with a copy of your plan.
Having trouble talking? Try these conversation starters.
5. Write down or record your wishes
When you are in pain or experiencing unpleasant symptoms such as dizziness or nausea, health care providers will always give you medicine and treatment to relieve those symptoms.
There are other medical procedures, however, that you may or may not want at the end of life.
If possible, write down or make a recording or video talking about what you would want if you are at the end of life and are not expected to survive – such as the use of machines that will keep you alive (for example, breathing machines or dialysis).
You should also consider documenting any other wishes for your care at the end of life (for example, dying at home, receiving hospice/palliative care, having music playing, specific religious rituals).
These advance care plan workbooks can help you document your wishes
6. Review your plan regularly
Life changes – and so may your wishes. Remember to review your plan from time to time to be sure it still reflects your choices, and that your Substitute Decision Maker is still able to perform that duty.