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Conversations Matter: Planning for your future healthcare

Advance Care Planning

Supporting Albertans in advance care planning.

In Alberta advance care planning includes:

• Having a personal directive

• Having a Goals of Care Designation order, when medically appropriate

• Using a Green Sleeve to hold and transport advance care planning documents

What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance care planning is a way to help you plan and document your wishes for the type of healthcare you wish to receive now and in the future. It is for every adult, especially for people with health issues. It is best done when you’re healthy, before there’s actually an urgent need for a plan.

Advance care planning is particularly significant for people who have a chronic illness, more than one disease, are older or may have cognitive impairment.

Planning ahead brings peace of mind to you and to people who are important to you.

Advance care planning is a process that helps you

• think about values and wishes for medical treatments you may or may not want

• talk about your healthcare goals

• make a plan that reflects your values and wishes

• document your plan

If you could not speak for yourself will your family know your healthcare wishes?

Imagine your elderly mother slipped on the ice, hit her head and is in a coma? Her healthcare team is now asking you questions about her values and wishes.

Do you know her wishes for care?

If she could communicate, what would she say her goals are?

Imagine this was you. Who would speak for you?

Do they know what you want?

How do I begin?

STEP 1: Think about your values and goals.

Consider your values and preferences when you think about the questions below.

There are no wrong answers to these questions.

Past experiences of health

• Have you had past experiences of healthcare that influence what you’d like from your future care?

These may be positive or negative experiences that happened to you or others you know.

Your future health

• What does quality of life mean to you? Being able to talk with your family? Looking after yourself?

• Who are the important people in your life?

• Do religious or spiritual beliefs influence your preferences for medical treatments?

STEP 2: Learn about your own health.

• Do you feel you have a good understanding of your current health?

If you have an existing medical condition talk to your doctor or other healthcare providers about:

• Your prognosis, that is, what you might expect to experience in the future as a result of your medical condition.

• Possible medical treatments for your condition.

• What to expect from these treatments. It’s helpful to understand the types of healthcare decisions you may need to make.

STEP 3: Choose someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you couldn’t.

Ask yourself:

• Do I trust this person to make healthcare decisions with my healthcare team based on my values and wishes?

• Are they able to communicate clearly?

• Would they be able to make difficult decisions in stressful situations?

• Is this person willing and available to speak for me if I were unable to make healthcare decisions for myself?

Who will speak for you?

Unexpected or sudden medical events can leave you unable to communicate your wishes. Other medical conditions can slowly take away your ability to communicate or make decisions about care.

It is important to choose and legally appoint someone who can speak for you in the event you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself.

In Alberta this person is referred to as your agent.


Communicate your wishes and values about your healthcare to your family and healthcare team.

Make a list of the most important things you want to talk about during your conversation.

Conversation starters:

• My health is good right now, but I want to talk to you about my wishes if I was sick or injured in the future.

• I have been thinking about my wishes for organ and tissue donation. Can we talk about that?

• My doctor asked me to think about and write down my wishes for future healthcare should I get sicker. You are important to me, can we talk?

STEP 5: Document in a personal directive

In Alberta, a personal directive (sometimes called a “PD”) is the legal document that allows you to choose who your decision-maker will be and may provide guidance about your wishes.

• Your personal directive only comes into effect if or when the time comes that you are unable to make decisions about your healthcare.

• Share your personal directive with your decision-maker (agent), family and healthcare providers.

• Your personal directive can and should be reviewed any time you have a change in your health circumstances or your wishes and values.

• To create your personal directive, the Office of the Public Guardian has a free template (with instructions) or you can have your lawyer create one.

If you don’t have a personal directive and it’s determined you’re incapable of providing informed consent:

• you don’t get to choose who will make decisions for you

• a healthcare provider may ask your nearest relative to make decisions for you

• a family member or friend may have to go to court to become your guardian, which takes time and money.

For information about personal directives contact the Office of the

Public Guardian 310-0000 (toll-free in Alberta) search Personal Directive

For more information, please contact your healthcare provider or visit:

For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information, call Health Link at 811.

If you need an interpreter just say the language you need.

Current as of: October 30, 2019

Author: Palliative and End of Life Care Team, Alberta Health Services.

This material is for information purposes only.  It should not be used in place of medical advice, instruction or treatment.  If you have questions, talk with your doctor or appropriate healthcare provider.


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