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Empowered aging: A guide to advance care planning

Apr 10, 2024 | Care Development Team, Geriatric Medicine

Making future health-care decisions can be challenging, but with the right information and guidance, it can lead to care that honours your wishes and safeguards your dignity. Dr. George Heckman, Schlegel Research Chair in Geriatric Medicine, Heather Keller, Schlegel Research Chair in Nutrition and Aging, and their colleague Dr. Allan Garland, share important and helpful advice about advance care planning to empower you to make informed health-care decisions, ensuring your voice is heard and respected.

Understanding advance care planning

Advance care planning is about sharing your personal values and wishes about health care if you become unable to speak for yourself. It includes conversations with your doctor, family, friends and care partners to help you think about, talk about, and write down how you wish to be cared for. Knowing and sharing your wishes in advance can help guide your substitute decision maker and doctor to respect your choices, so your care aligns with your desires at times where you might not be able to communicate.

Choosing a substitute decision maker

A substitute decision maker is someone who will share your medical wishes to your
doctor, if you are unable to do so yourself; not their own wishes for you. It’s important to choose someone who understands and respects your desires.

Questions to ask your doctor

Advance care planning involves sharing your choices around specific health conditions that you are likely to have. In order to make these choices, it’s important to understand your health, your health care options, and what to expect. Some questions you may want to ask your doctor include:

  • What are my current health conditions and concerns?
  • What specific medical problems can I anticipate with these conditions?
  • How can I prepare for these anticipated problems?
  • What types of treatments and/or procedures are available?
  • What are the benefits, risks and side effects of these treatments and/or procedures?
  • What can I realistically anticipate after these treatments and/or procedures, especially as it regards my quality of life?
  • What will happen if I decide to not have the treatment and/or procedure?

By talking about future health-care wishes early and making sure those who care for you understand your desires, you and your care partner can walk this journey with confidence and dignity.

Explore the recently launched BABEL Advance Care Planning resources here to get more tips about advance care planning.

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