What is advance care planning? Advance care planning involves making decisions about your future care with your health and social care professionals. The directives in your advance care plan will guide substitute decision-makers should you become unable to make your own choices.Now that we know what it is, we can talk about how important it is to start planning as early as possible. Advance care planning is when you identify your wishes you want to execute for yourself in dire situations; whether it be an illness or death, it’s a plan to implement your wishes the way you want. This is beneficial to you as the planner, as your wishes will be fulfilled, but also to your loved ones, as it takes the stress of deciding between options out of the process. That is not to say that when it comes time to use an advance care plan that it will be easy, no, far from it. Hopefully, you won’t have to use one for a long time, but it does mitigate some of the stress a loved one could feel during such a tumultuous event, such as illness or death. Some questions to get you started So you have decided to plan but don’t know where to start. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to get your plan started.
  • How would you like to be looked after?
  • Where would you like to be cared for in your final days? In a hospice? At home? 
  • Do you have any spiritual or religious beliefs that you would like to consider in an unforeseen situation?
  • Who would you like to spend time with?
  • Who is your Substitute Decision Maker? (Check out our other blog post Who is your “Substitute Decision Maker?”)
  • Who will look after your kids?
  • Who will look after your pets?
  • Do you have any thoughts about what you would like to happen to your body after you die?
Asking yourself these questions and then answering them is a sound basis for your advance care plan. There are many more questions you could ask yourself, and you should. Answering these questions will lay the groundwork for when it comes time to use this plan and give you a better sense of what you want in the future because your loved ones may not always know. 

Changes to your plan?
One of the downsides to planning early is that things may change. That’s not bad, you may want something different done to your body when you pass, or maybe the friend you wanted to look after your pet suddenly became allergic. If that’s the case, then you simply need to update the plan. You can ask yourself the same questions you did in the beginning and see if anything has changed. It is an excellent idea to do every year or every couple of years, to see if anything has changed. Ask yourself the questions, and if the answers are the same, you are good to keep the plan the way it is. However, if there is a change or a slight variation, it is prudent to updates as soon as possible as death waits for no one.

You have probably heard the phrase “There is no such thing as overplanning” this is especially true when it comes to your advanced care plan. It might be prudent to choose a backup ‘SDM’ if something happens to your ‘SDM’ before or during an event where you cannot make decisions for yourself. There is nothing wrong with planning for the worst possible scenario; it will be much easier for everyone involved if there are backups in place.