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Advance Care Planning: Having a say in your health care


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What is Advance Care Planning?


Advance care planning:


  • Is a way to help you think about, talk about and share the goals for your future health care (that is, your “goals of care”)

  • Helps you choose who would speak for you if you were unable to speak for yourself

  • Should include conversations with your healthcare team


By making your goals of care known, you will not leave your caregivers wondering what you might have wanted or did not want.


What are goals of care?


Goals of care are what you hope the treatments and interventions will do for you during your time of illness. When you make your future health care wishes known, you are telling the healthcare team and your loved ones about your goals of care.


There are three steps to follow to help you decide on your goals of care:


  1. THINK about it.

  2. TALK about it.

  3. SHARE it.


THINK about your values & beliefs.


When you plan for your future health care, you need to think about your values and beliefs, as well as your personal goals. To prepare yourself for advance care planning conversations, write down your thoughts to these questions:


  • What is most important to me about my physical or mental well-being?

  • What makes each day meaningful to me?

  • When I am nearing death, are there things I would wish for (or would not wish for)?

  • How do I feel about healthcare treatments that I may consider for my care (for example, living on a breathing machine)?


TALK about it with family and friends. What’s important?


Discussing your treatment wishes with loved ones may be an uncomfortable conversation, but it will help reduce pressure and stress during an already challenging time.


The best people to talk with are your family members and/or trusted friends. The people you choose to have these conversations with should know you well.


Remember, your healthcare team is an excellent source of information regarding your health and future health care choices. Talk with them about what treatments may be beneficial or harmful to your health.


SHARE your plans. Write them down.


Sharing your plans for your future health care with loved ones and healthcare providers ensures everyone knows about and respects your goals of care. Write your plans in an Advance Care Plan, a legally binding document.


In addition to writing an Advance Care Plan, you should also appoint a Substitute Decision-Maker (Attorney for Personal Care). This person will have the power to make health care decisions for you should you be unable to make them yourself.


In Ontario, you may use a Power of Attorney for Personal Care document to name a person(s) to be your Substitute Decision-Maker (Attorney for Personal Care). There is also a section in the document where you may write your Advance Care Plan.


Where should I keep my Advance Care Plan?


Make several copies of your Advance Care Plan to ensure you can easily find the document when you need it.


  • Keep two or three copies at home.

  • If you have an Emergency Response information kit, put a copy in there so emergency workers can find it.

  • Give a copy to your Substitute Decision-Maker.

  • Give a copy to your family doctor to include in your file.

  • Take a copy with you when you travel.

  • Bring a copy with you when being admitted to hospital and before surgery.


Can I change my advance care plans?


Over time, your feelings might change about the goals of care choices you have made during advance care planning. That’s okay. Advance care planning is a continuous process.


You may make changes anytime as long as you are able to make health care decisions.


Remember to share your new plans with family, your Substitute Decision-Maker and the healthcare team.


Resources for Advance Care Planning


HRH Patient & Family Resource Centre

Obtain free copies of the Power of Attorney for Personal Care, Substitute Decision-Makers and other publications.


Power of Attorney for Personal Care

Internet search: "Power of Attorney Kit Ontario"
Tel: 1 (800) 366-0335
Obtain a copy of the Power of Attorney for Personal Care Kit online.


Substitute Decision-Makers (Making decisions for other people) (PDF) PDF icon

Describes a Substitute Decision-Maker’s role in making decisions about your health care and treatment when you are not able to.


Advance Care Planning workbook (PDF) PDF icon

HRH has a workbook to guide you through the process of advance care planning. It highlights the three main steps you can follow to help you think about and document your values, wishes and preferences for your health care - Think about it; Talk about it; Share it.


For more information:


If you wish to know more about advance care planning or obtain a copy of the Advance Care Planning workbook, please contact your doctor, social worker or nurse at HRH.


Form#: 002020
Last Revised: March 2018
Author: Humber River Hospital

Patient Care Reinvented.