Making your wishes known (advance care planning)

Advance care planning is a chance for you to reflect on your preferences about your current and future healthcare decisions. These decisions are usually shared with your family members and healthcare providers.

Advance care planning ensures that your wishes are respected in the future if you are unable to communicate your preferences to those providing your care.

Every adult should make an advance care plan. 

No one can predict the future, so having a plan ensures that others know your wishes and that your voice will be heard if you cannot speak for yourself. Advance care planning is especially important for people who face a serious illness. Knowing that you have a plan can reduce anxiety for you and your loved ones.

Your advance care plan is only used if you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions. For example, if you are in a coma or your illness impairs your ability to make decisions. At this time your substitute decision maker will assist health care providers in planning your medical care based on your previously expressed wishes. Your substitute decision maker is the person who you choose to make decisions for you in the event that you cannot make these decisions yourself.

Creating your advance care plan

Talking about end of life issues can be difficult for anyone. However, it will likely be up to you to express your wishes and start conversations about advance care planning. 

Here are some tips to help you start the conversation:

  • Begin by reflecting on your values, beliefs and understanding about your illness, treatments and care. 
  • Think about who you feel would be most capable of honouring and making medical decisions on your behalf.

Members of your cancer care team can talk with you and provide guidance on how to start advance care planning. 

Changing your advance care plan

You can change your advance care plan as often as you like. Our lives, and the people around us, change over time. It’s a good idea to review your plan every so often so that it reflects any changes to your preferences. Make sure you talk to your substitute decision maker about these changes. Your substitute decision maker will be consulted and use your most recent advance care plan only if you cannot speak for yourself.

To learn more about advance care planning, use the related resources on the right side of this page.