Planning Ahead for Health Care

Planning Ahead for Health Care

What is Advance Care Planning?

Planning ahead for health care is called advance care planning (ACP).  As the name suggests, this means planning in advance for your health care. When you start advance care planning, you think about your wishes and values. You record your thoughts about what is important. This helps prepare others if you can’t make your own decisions because of illness or injury.

Advance care planning has been around for a long time, but more recently, we are realizing that all adults should all do advance care planning. Also, as life brings changes, you will need to review your plan and have new conversations.

The information and links to resources here can guide you through the planning process. It doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t need to take long.

Five Things You Should Know About Advance Care Planning

  1. Advance care planning is not just about death and dying. It is mostly about living, and how we cope with health challenges at any stage of life.
  2. Advance care planning should happen when you are young and healthy.  Injury and illness can happen at any age, and usually take us by surprise. It’s hard for anyone to make good decisions during the stress of a health crisis. Advance care planning should begin when someone reaches adulthood.
  3. Advance care planning looks at the big picture, not just specific medical decisions. It is impossible to predict a future medical event and all the different ways it could play out. What’s most important is how decisions will support your wishes and values, so you have quality of life.
  4. Advance care planning starts with meaningful conversations.
    The process begins with honest conversations with your family, friends, others that matter to you, and your health care team. In these talks, you will share what is important to you. The biggest questions to discuss are ‘What gives your life meaning?’ and ‘What does a good day look like?’ If you have a circle of close friends and family around you, talk to all or most of them. That way, they can support you, each other, and your decision-maker in the future
  5. Advance care planning doesn’t need to cost anything.
    You do not need a lawyer. You can complete all documents yourself, including formal documents such as a Representation Agreement. Find fill-in-the-blanks templates for legal documents in the B.C. Provincial My Voice booklet

Why do I Need to Plan in Advance?

Reduces conflict

among those who matter to you during times of illness and injury, and afterwards

Reduces anxiety, stress, and depression

for relatives and friends when someone is ill

Gives lasting peace of mind

for anyone who makes health care decisions for another person. No one wants to wonder, years after a health event, if they made the right decision for someone else

Honours our values and wishes

for future health care decisions. Advance care planning allows for self-determination so we might live in the best way we can despite ill health

Getting Started with Advance Care Planning

Take Just One Step

Looking for one simple way to get started with advance care planning? Write or record your wishes. Then give them to your family, friends, and/or a health care team.

You don’t need to use formal language or follow a special format. Just grab a pen and paper or tap ‘record’ on your phone. This will provide a future decision-maker with guidance.

Down the road you can get help or check out more resources and make a detailed plan.

These steps don’t need to be done in order. You can start anywhere. Click here to learn more about the five steps to advance care planning You’ll find short, helpful videos and free interactive workbooks.

Advance Care Planning by the Numbers

Between 2019 and 2021, the number of Canadians who talked to a family member about advance care planning almost doubled: from one in three (36%) to almost two in three (59%)
70% of Canadians (compared to 63% in 2019) felt comfortable having advance care planning conversations
In 2021, more than four in ten Canadians (42%) thought it was important to start planning young: up from 36% in 2019. The ideal age? Between 35 and 54


Advance Care Planning Canada

This national organization offers

  • A workbook that you can complete online, print, or download
  • A quick workbook you can use to create a bare-bones plan in two simple pages
  • Videos, webinars, toolkits, articles, FAQs, a free e-newsletter, and more
  • Resources for specific populations such as LGBTQ+, Indigenous and First Nations peoples, people who face inequities, and members of immigrant communities
  • Information on specific medical conditions

HealthLinkBC Advance Care Planning

This website provides a complete guide to advance care planning in B.C. with links to more information if needed

The British Columbia Ministry of Health Advance Care Planning website has written information, videos in English, Punjabi, and Chinese, and links to further resources

This British Columbia guide comes in various lengths and formats. Each version leads you through the process of creating an advance care plan. Some versions are available in Punjabi, simplified Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

Shorter, simpler versions are at the top of the list and more in-depth ones are at the end. Find the one that works for you!

My Voice in Action—Easy Read

An easy-to-read version with pictures and clear language.

My Voice in Action (in English) and My Voice in Action (in Punjabi)

An action-oriented workbook that gets right to the process. Use it on its own or as alongside My Voice.

My Voice Quick Tips

A one-page info-sheet that guides people through the basics and offers help using the longer-form booklet.

My Voice: Expressing My Wishes for Future Health Care Treatment (in English)

The full-length 52-page booklet. Use it on its own or with one of the companion booklets above.

My Voice: Expressing My Wishes for Future Health Care Treatment (in Punjabi, simplified Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese)

The full-length 52-page booklet. Use it on its own or with one of the companion booklets above.

A workbook from Advance Care Planning Canada with two versions:

Speak Up: Advance Care Planning Quick Workbook

A shorter version that you can use to create a bare-bones plan in two simple pages

Speak Up: Advance Care Planning Workbook

Can be filled in online, downloaded as a fillable PDF, or printed and completed on paper.

Living My Culture is a website with videos where people from various cultures share their stories and wisdom about living with serious illness, end of life, and grief. These stories honour culture, spirituality, and traditions while providing helpful information to guide you. Includes First Nations, Inuit, Metis, Chinese, Ethiopian, Filipino, Indian, Iranian, Italian, Pakistani, Somali voices.

Learn more about advance care planning with series of how-to videos from the Fraser Valley Health Authority. Available in English, Punjabi, French, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese

Advance Care Canada has a library of educational videos ranging from 30-second animations to in-depth webinars

Aboriginal Health: Advance Care Planning—Respecting Indigenous Ceremonies and Rites

This pamphlet looks at health care choices that reflect culture

Your Care, Your Choices: Workbook for Advance Care Planning from the First Nations Health Authority

Coming Full Circle: Planning for Your Care is a booklet and a fillable workbook. It was developed by a national Elders and Knowledge Carriers Circle and Holly Prince, an Anishnaabekwe scholar

First Nations Health Authority website has culturally specific information on advance care planning

Living My Culture offers a video with stories about the intersection of culture and advanced illness, end-of-life, grief, palliative care, and advance care planning through the voices of 125 people speaking 12 languages

Planning for My Care is a fillable workbook developed by and for people who identify as Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+.  It is part of a series of resources, Proud, Prepared and Protected which includes videos, articles, and other online resources to assist people who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ to find inclusive, respectful care