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Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning (ACP) means thinking about “what is important to you” and what makes your life meaningful. If you lose decision-making capacity, your advance care plan can guide your substitute decision maker to make treatment decisions in accordance with your wishes, values and beliefs.

Advance care planning comes into effect when you are alive, but not able to make decisions. Estate planning comes into effect after death. Both are important.

Advance Care Planning is an expression of wishes. ACP is not advance consent; not an Advance Directive.

There may come a time when you cannot make decisions for yourself. This condition could be temporary (e.g., infection) or permanent (e.g., acquired brain injury), sudden (e.g., a stroke) or slow to develop (e.g., dementia). When this happens, Canadian law requires a substitute decision maker to make decisions on your behalf.

Advance care planning can help your substitute decision maker ensure that you receive the kind of care you want. In the event of a crisis, knowing the decisions you have made in advance may make it easier for the substitute decision maker and reduce stress for family members. Even within a loving family, people often have different values, beliefs and health care goals. If you want your wishes respected, you need to express them while you are capable.

A brief video explaining advance care planning may be helpful:

All of us, especially as we get older. If you have a chronic condition, a progressive condition, or a terminal illness, it’s extremely important to make your wishes known to your substitute decision maker.

No. ACP is not difficult, but it may raise emotional issues — in particular, wishes for care at the end of life. Although many people find it difficult to talk about these things with friends and family, it’s usually easier to start the conversation before the need becomes urgent.

  • Who do you want to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapable?
  • What do you want to say to your substitute decision maker? What directions do you want to give?

If you are not able to make decisions for yourself, a substitute decision maker will do it for you.

A substitute decision maker (SDM) is a person with the legal authority to make decisions about treatment on behalf of someone who has been found incapable.

A guide to help you to develop your advance care plan can be found on the SpeakUpOntario website.

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