Advance care planning is the process by which you may consider options about future health care decisions and let others know of your personal care preferences in the event that you become incapable of consenting to or refusing treatment or other care.
An Advance care plan may involve appointing a substitute decision maker for you and preparing an advanced care directive (also known as a "living will") to provide instructions about your healthcare.
Your substitute decision maker will only be able to make those personal care decisions that you cannot make yourself such as decisions related to medical treatment, housing and food. You might, for example, be incapable of making a serious health care decision but still be able to make your own choices about routine day-to-day matters. You may specify that the substitute decision maker is required to get a letter from the doctor before making decisions on your behalf. If the decision is about medical treatment or admission to a long-term care facility, a health professional must determine whether you are incapable of such decisions before your attorney may act.
A Power of Attorney for Personal Care allows you to give a trusted person, the substitute decision maker, the power to make personal and medical decisions if you become mentally incapacitated. It may contain an advanced care directive that may spell out the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you want and don't want. For example, some people may decline artificial life support treatment if they have no hope of recovery.
You may make a Power of Attorney for Personal Care if you are over 16-years old and:
a) has the ability to understand that your substitute decision maker has a genuine concern for your welfare; and
b) appreciate that the substitute decision maker may need to make decisions for him or herself.
The following people may NOT act as your attorney, your: landlord, social worker, counsellor, teacher, advocate, doctor, nurse, therapist or other health care provider, homemaker or attendant, or any person who provides care for you in the place where you live.
The Substitutes Decisions Act does not set out compensation guidelines for the appointed substitute decision maker. Although it is not common to do so, the Power of Attorney of Personal Care may set out that actual expenses are reimbursable.
You may never need to use the advance care plan – but if you do, you will be glad that it is available and that you have communicated your decisions to your loved ones, to ensure that your wishes are honoured. If you do not appoint a substitute decision maker, the law determines this/these person(s) or the government will decide on your personal care choices as the last resort.
Advanced care planning has been shown to increase the quality of life of patients, improve the experience of family members, and decrease health care costs.
The law firm Winnie J Luk Professional Corporation may assist in your Advanced Care and Wills and Estates planning matters. To get started with your Advanced Care Planning, please click here.
Disclaimer: This article does not contain legal advice and only provides general information. It is not intended to replace advice from a qualified legal professional and should not be relied upon to make decisions. In all cases, contact your legal professional for advice on any matter referenced in this article before making decisions. Use of this article does not establish a lawyer-client relationship.