What is Advance Care Planning?
Advance care planning is a way for you to communicate your wishes for your future personal care ahead of time. It provides a way for you to tell your wishes to family, friends and health care professionals how you want your care to be handled, so there is no confusion later on. Advance care planning allows you to decide what course(s) of action or treatment you want to receive if you are dying, permanently unconscious or in a coma. It also allows you to communicate many other wishes you may have such as where you would like to live, care procedures you would or would not want to have carried out, how you would like to have your personal safety ensured, etc.
Appointing someone to ensure your advance care planning is carried out according to your wishes
If you have made some decisions regarding the kind of care you wish to receive in the future, it is important to appoint someone who you trust and who is capable of ensuring your wishes are respected and carried out as you have planned. This person is called your substitute decision-maker. Your substitute decision-maker is also given the ability to make decisions on your behalf in situations you may not have thought about previously. It is the duty of the substitute decision-maker to make decisions in your best interests, so it is important that this person knows you well, and your values and beliefs well, and feels confident speaking on your behalf.
In order to give your substitute decision-maker the authority to make decisions on your behalf, you must sign a legal document called a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. To learn more about this, please see the document attached at the end of this posting.
Communicating your advance care planning to your substitute decision-maker
Once you have established the kind of care you wish to receive in the future, it is important to communicate your wishes in some way to your substitute decision-maker. This can be in person, by videotape or tape-recorder or in writing. If you chose to put your wishes in writing, you may want to consider having an "advance care directive" or "living will" that can help your substitute-decision-maker when dealing with your care providers.
If you are in an emergency situation where you cannot communicate for yourself and you have appointed a substitute decision-maker to act on your behalf, it is important that first responders have access to this information to ensure you receive care according to your wishes. Having a medical ID wallet card or medical ID bracelet that gives the name and contact information of your substitute decision-maker is a way to help ensure you receive the kind of care you are wanting. Also, if you have a DNR, it is imperative that medical personnel know right away so that heroic life-saving measures are not performed on you against your wishes.
The above provides just a small amount of the information that goes into Advance Care Planning. To read more on this subject, please visit: http://www.seniors.gov.on.ca/en/advancedcare/docs/AdvancedCare.Guide.pdf