- Three common mistakes - and how to avoid them.
Ensure your Wishes for Medical Treatment are Followed
Writing an Advance Care Plan involves much more than simply filling in a form. It is essential to take time for reflection and discussion to ensure your Plan reflects your values, beliefs and wishes.
- Step 1Understand all Your Choices
The first step in completing an Advance Care Plan is to understand the end-of-life choices available to you. You can read all about your end of life choices here.
- Step 2Reflect and Discuss
Once you understand your options, pause. The decisions you need to make about end-of-life care are critical. Take time to reflect on your available choices and discuss them with your loved ones.
Our Advanced Care Planning Kit can guide you through these discussions by providing specific scenarios to consider. For example: Imagine you are physically frail and you need help with most routine daily activities, such as dressing, bathing, eating and going to the toilet. You live in a nursing home and your mind is fairly clear and capable most of the time. You have had pneumonia or other lung infections four times in the last year. Each time you had to be hospitalized for days and given antibiotics through an IV tube. The next time you get pneumonia, do you want aggressive antibiotic treatment again or just comfort care until death?
Think about your decisions in the context of your values, beliefs and wishes. Remember, as long as you are competent to make and express your own wishes, you will be asked to do so. You are preparing an Advance Care Directive in case others need to make end-of-life decisions on your behalf.
- Step 3Make Your Decisions
Once you've reflected on and discussed your choices, make the decisions that feel right for you now. Remember, as long as you are competent to speak for yourself, you will be making and communicating your decisions as the questions arise.
The purpose of the Advance Care Directive is to leave clear information in writing. If you become unable to communicate on your own behalf, your substitute decision maker can use this information to make decisions for you that you would want. Remember that you can change your Advance Care Directive at any time. (We recommend reviewing it annually.)
- Step 4Document Your Decisions
When it comes to end-of-life decisions, what you've put in writing will carry much more weight than what you've mentioned in passing. It can also make it easier for your Substitute Decision Maker to act on your wishes. So write it down! You can use the forms in our Advance Care Planning Kit or have a lawyer or notary draw up your Directive. It's up to you.
- Step 5Communicate Your Decisions
Now that you have an Advance Care Plan, let others know. The most critical person to inform is your Substitute Decision Maker (SDM). After reading your Plan, arrange for both you and your SDM take the quiz in our Advance Care Planning Kit to ensure your thinking is aligned.
Give a copy of your plan to your SDM. If you carry a cell phone, create a contact for ICE (in case of emergency) and enter the telephone number of your Substitute Decision Maker. In more and more jurisdictions, healthcare professionals are trained to look for contact information under this heading.