As a lawyer, I frequently prepare Powers of Attorney for Personal Care for my clients. Often, we have a brief discussion about end of life wishes. I always remind my clients that having the discussion with loved ones is the most important part of the process. Web sites like www.dyingwithdignity.ca,  the Speak Up campaign (www.advancecareplanning.ca) and other initiatives have helped people start this important discussion.

What is advance care planning? It is a process, not simply a document I can prepare for you, although your decisions can be documented in a living will if you wish. Advance care planning is a conversation you need to have with your loved ones and a conversation you may need to revisit as you age and encounter different health challenges. Having a plan can help you ensure you will receive the care that is important to you at your end of life.

Even if you are young and healthy, it is important to have a plan, or at a minimum, have a discussion with your loved ones about your wishes regarding end of life care. None of us can predict how or when we will die, so having a plan ensures your wishes will be honoured, even if you are unable to speak for yourself. An advance care plan will only be used in the event that you cannot speak for yourself about end-of-life care.

There are many resources available as part of the Speak Up campaign. The Advance Care Planning Workbook is available as a free fillable PDF here. Generally speaking, though, you need to go through the following steps to develop your own advance care plan:

  1. Think about what is right for you. Your values and experiences will guide your choices.
  2. Learn about options and medical procedures. This is an important step—you need to be informed.
  3. Decide who will make medical decisions for you if you are unable to. If you have not already done so, document this choice in a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. You may have chosen a decision maker but this is not effective unless it is legally documented.
  4. Have the conversation with whoever will make decisions for you, as well as with your loved ones, your physician, and others who might be involved in your care.
  5. Write down or record your wishes about end of life care. This can be formally in a living will, or more informally in a letter to loved ones or your decision maker, or in a recording or video.
  6. Review the plan regularly and continue the discussion.

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Michele R.J. Allinotte is the owner of Allinotte Law Office Professional Corporation in Cornwall, Ontario and she helps her clients make the best decisions for themselves, their families and their businesses. Her practice focuses on the areas of business law, estate planning and real estate. Visit www.YourCornwallLawyer.com to book an appointment today.