What is an advance care directive?
An advance care directive (sometimes called a living will) is a document that goes into effect only if you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. It specifies to your loved ones what your preferences are around end-of-life care. Interestingly, 86% of Canadians have never heard of advance care planning and only half the population have had a discussion with a family member or friend about end-of-care wishes.
There is no legal requirement to have a directive and there is no “official” form in Ontario. A Guide to Advance Care Planning from Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat is a good place to start when trying to decide what to do. Every advance care directive is different – you can tailor it specifically to your wishes and it can be as vague or specific as you like.
Steps to Preparing a Plan
There are four main steps to preparing a plan:
1. Think about your values and what’s important to you
- What are the things that make your life meaningful – family, friends, faith, animals,
- What health care treatment(s) (including life support) do you agree to, or refuse, if a health
- What are your preferences should you need long-term care and are no longer able to be
2. Consult people you trust who can provide guidance
- Making these decisions can be difficult so don’t try to do it on your own. Share your thoughts
on what treatments/interventions you may have to make a decision on.
3. Decide on your Power of Attorney (POA) for Personal Care
- While it is not a legal requirement to have a POA, if you want a specific individual to act on your behalf you will need to formally appoint that person. POA forms can be downloaded by clicking this link. You may have your lawyer review the completed document but it is not essential.
4. Communicate your wishes
- Now that you’ve made these important decisions you need to communicate your wishes to your POA, family and ideally your family physician
- Expressing your wishes in writing will ensure there are no mistakes about what you want
After reading this, you may still feel overwhelmed about preparing your advance care directive. If you’d like some assistance, give me a call. I can guide you thru the process and provide an objective viewpoint.