There are 5 main steps to advance care planning. For an overview of these 5 steps, read the following information and watch the advance care planning video.
Step 1: Think about your values and goals.
When you start making your advance care plan, think about what’s important to you (your values) and what’s right for you (your preferences) when you answer the questions below. There are no wrong answers to these questions:
- Have your past experiences of healthcare made you think about what you’d like from your future care? These may be good or bad experiences that happened to you or others.
- What does quality of life mean to you? Being able to talk with your family? Looking after yourself?
- Who are the important people in your life?
- Do religious or spiritual beliefs affect your decisions for medical treatments?
- Have you thought about organ and tissue donation?
Step 2: Learn about your health.
Do you have a good understanding of how your health is now? If you have any health issues, talk to your doctor or other healthcare providers about:
- Your prognosis—this means what you might expect to happen because of your health issues.
- Possible medical treatments for your health issues.
- What to expect from these treatments. It’s helpful to understand the types of healthcare decisions you may need to make.
Step 3: Choose your agent.
A sudden injury or illness can leave you unable to tell people what you want. Other medical problems can slowly take away your ability to communicate or make healthcare decisions.
It’s important to choose someone you trust who can speak for you if you can’t make medical decisions for yourself. You will put this person’s name in a legal document (legally appoint this person). In Alberta this person is called your agent.
When you’re choosing your agent, ask yourself:
- Do I trust this person to make healthcare decisions with my healthcare team based on my values and wishes?
- Can they communicate clearly?
- Can they make difficult decisions under stress?
- Are they willing and available to speak for me if I couldn’t make healthcare decisions for myself?
Step 4: Tell others your wishes.
For this step, talk to your family or the people closest to you and your healthcare team to tell them what you want for your healthcare. Make a list of the most important things you want to talk about. Here are a few ways you could start the conversation:
- My health is good right now, but I want to talk to you about my wishes if I was sick or injured someday.
- I’ve been thinking about my wishes for organ and tissue donation. Can we talk about that?
- My doctor asked me to think about and write down what I want for my healthcare if I get sicker. You’re important to me—can we talk?
Your wishes and values may change over time or as your health changes. Be sure to let your agent, loved ones, or healthcare team know about any changes.
Step 5: Write a personal directive.
In Alberta, a personal directive is a legal document. It lets you choose who your decision-maker (agent) will be and may give guidance about your wishes. Your personal directive only comes into effect if or when you can’t make decisions about your healthcare.
Share your personal directive with your agent, family, and healthcare providers. Review it any time you have a change in your health, wishes, or values. You can write your own personal directive, use a template from the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, or have a lawyer help you.
If you don’t have a personal directive and it happens that you can’t make decisions or speak for yourself:
- You don’t get to choose who will make decisions for you.
- A healthcare provider may ask your nearest relative to make decisions for you.
- A family member or friend may have to go to court to become your guardian, which takes time and money.
For more information about personal directives, contact the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee.