Advance Care Planning: Why and how to get started 

News & Updates | April 5, 2024 | Sarah Dobec

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A photo of the cover of our new ACP kit and a person writing something on paper on a table.

April is Advance Care Planning Month and DWDC is celebrating with an updated and improved Advance Care Planning (ACP) Kit. You can download a copy for free here. Death Doula Jo-Anne Haun hosts ACP workshops to help people start and complete their Advance Directives. She shared her best tips with us in this three-part blog series.

What is an Advance Care Planning (ACP) Kit, and what is the outcome of completing one? 

I was part of a DWDC working group that recently updated the Advance Care Planning Kit. It’s a wonderful tool to think about your values, beliefs, and preferences for your future health care, document your directions in an Advance Directive and share these directions with a Substitute Decision-Maker that you choose. 

The outcome is your medical wishes recorded in an official provincial or territorial Advance Directive, and the designation of your Substitute Decision-Maker(s). 

In each province or territory there are different words for an “Advance Directive” (such as “Health Care Directive,” “Directive,” “Personal Directive,” “Advance Health Care Directive,” or “Advance Care Directive”) and “Substitute Decision-Maker” (such as “Attorney for Personal Care,” “Proxy,” “Delegate,” “Representative,” or “Agent”) 

Why should everyone complete an ACP and an Advance Directive? 

It’s important that you get the care that you want, and without an Advance Directive, health care professionals will try to keep you alive for as long as they can. Regardless of your age and health status, you want to be able to direct your health care when you cannot speak for yourself. 

It’s important to do this work while you are healthy and have time to consider what you want. It is a task that can take time to complete so you do not want to write your Advance Directive in crisis.  

What is your approach as an end-of-life educator to guiding people through the process? 

My business partner and I do workshops on Advance Care Planning over two days. We ask questions about who and what’s important to you, and this takes time. We also do this in small groups which I believe helps make talking about dying and death a little less frightening; sharing ideas and scenarios helps others think about what they want. 

There are lots of great resources to help you through the process including the updated DWDC Advance Care Planning Kit. 

For some people, thinking about what medical care they don’t want is a good place to start. Once you have a list of the treatments you would not want, you can fill in any blanks for what you do want. 

We also ask the question, “What do you want your end of life to look like and your final day(s)?” Then we consider where the person is now and what it will take to get them to that ideal end.  

What’s your best advice for getting started? 

Do it now and do it while you are healthy! Download the updated Advance Care Planning Kit, make time in your schedule, do it with a friend, don’t overcomplicate it, and get it done!  

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