Who will speak for you
if you cannot speak for yourself?
What is Advance Care Planning?
"Who will speak for you, if you cannot speak for yourself" is a question that is surrounded by negativity, and often avoided. Some people may have a vague idea of who they would like to step in, while others think they are too young to worry about such things. By and large, the vast majority of people have only every given it a passing thought.
In reality, knowing the answer to this question, as well as having a plan in place can be a much appreciated comfort if ever a time comes when such contingencies are needed. Advance care planning is the process of reflecting on your values, and being mindfully aware of your beliefs, choosing a trusted substitute decision maker, and forming a plan of care.
Why is a plan important?
It is impossible to predict exactly what the future holds for us. No matter what your age, it is possible that your health status may change drastically and without warning. Sometimes there are no indications that a substitute decision maker will be needed before this change happens. This is why, no matter what your current circumstances, it is vital to make an advance care plan.
In Ontario, the law states that all health care professionals must obtained informed consent before providing a patient with treatment or care. This means that having a substitute decision maker that knows your wishes is key to ensuring that your treatment plan best represents you and your values.
Choosing a substitute decision maker
Choosing a substitute decision maker is a process every bit as important as formulating your plan. It should be someone you trust to uphold your wishes in a stressful and uncertain time. Make sure your substitute decision maker is open to listening to your wishes and values, and that they communicate with you effectively. Although serious, this topic does not need to be solemn. It can be a two way conversation with ideas and beliefs being shared openly and directly.
Above all else, when choosing a substitute decision maker, make sure that your candidate understands and accepts this responsibility. You should never name a substitute decision maker without informing them, other loved ones and friends of your choice.
Make your plan!
You should never assume that your wishes are known. Nor should you feel that once your plan is made that it is final. Your plan can be changed at any time, as many times as you like. Just make sure to inform your substitute decision maker as well as your loved ones any time a change is made.
Take some time to reflect on your feelings and beliefs. What are your values and wishes?
Learn about different medical procedures that you could required in the future. What the benefits and limitations? How do you feel about the possible outcomes?
Choose a substitute decision maker. Ensure that whoever you choose is informed about exactly what the role entails and accepts this responsibility.
Making your wishes known to your substitute decision maker, your loved ones, and your doctor is the most important step in advance care planning.
Make a written copy of your wishes, keep one for yourself, give one to your substitute decision maker, and give one to your doctor or lawyer. Having a written document will help your loved ones during a stressful time.