Ensure your wishes are followed

Planning now for end-of-life care is the best way to ensure the treatment you want and the peace of mind you need.

That's why Dying With Dignity Canada has developed a simple guide on how to document your wishes properly. 

Honed over many years, End of Life Planning Canada's Advance Care Planning Kits outline your options for care in many typical end-of-life scenarios. The step-by-step questionnaire will equip others with the information they need to express your decisions if you can no longer do so.

Of course, end of life planning involves much more than simply filling out a form. By following these five steps, you will help ensure your choices are understood, and ultimately, respected.

Know your rights. Did you know that you, as a competent adult, have the right to refuse CPR, antibiotics or blood pressure tests? Or that you have the right to stop eating and drinking should you choose? Consult DWDC’s helpful list of patient rights to take control of your care.

Reflect and discuss. Choices are all about values. Before filling out your Advance Care Planning Kit, ask yourself what you value most. Imagine, for example, you live in a nursing home and need occasional help to eat and bathe. Suddenly, you suffer a cardiac arrest. Would you wish to be kept alive at all costs, or are you more concerned about losing further quality of life? Would you accept some life-saving measures and not others, or would you want no treatment at all?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Thinking and talking about your choices in the context of your values will better prepare you to complete an Advance Care Plan.

Make your decisions. The Advance Care Planning Kit will guide you through a series of end-of-life situations, informing you of your options in each. For every scenario, pick the option that feels right to you now.

Don’t worry about how you’ll feel in the future: you can always change your mind. If you can speak for yourself, you can make decisions about your care. You can also update your Advance Care Plan whenever you’d like. (We recommend reviewing, dating and initialing it at least once every three years.)

Document your wishes. When it comes to end-of-life decisions, what you've put in writing will carry more weight than something you've mentioned in passing. Clear, written instructions will also make it easier for your substitute decision-maker to act on your wishes. So write them down — filling out a Do-Not-Resuscitate order is usually not enough! You can use the forms in the Advance Care Planning Kit or have a lawyer or notary draw up your documents. It's up to you.

Communicate your choices. Now that you have an Advance Care Plan, let others know. Most critically, ensure your substitute decision-maker has a copy of your plan and understands your wishes fully.

Make sure your substitute decision-maker can be reached in an emergency. Carry a medic alert wallet card (call our office to obtain one). If you carry a cell phone, it’s also helpful to create an ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact and enter the telephone number of your substitute decision-maker. In many jurisdictions, healthcare professionals are trained to look for contact information under this heading.