Advance Care Plans (ACPs) are normally made together with your healthcare team when you’re nearing the end of life. This is different to making an Advance Decision (Living Will), an Advance Statement or a Lasting Powers of Attorney for Health and Welfare, which can be made at any time.
Advance Care Plans are used to record your treatment and care wishes. They should be attached to your medical notes and be easily accessible to those involved in your care. If you’ve made an Advance Decision, Advance Statement or Lasting Power of Attorney, this you should make a note of this in your Advance Care Plan.
Is an ACP legally binding?
An Advance Care Plan isn’t legally binding. However, if you’re near the end of life it’s a good idea to make one so that people involved in your care know what’s important to you. Your healthcare team will try to follow your wishes and must take the document into account when deciding what’s in your best interests.
What should I include in my Advance Care Plan?
You should include anything that’s important to you in relation to your future health and care. The kind of wishes you can set out include:
- where you want to be cared for and where you want to die (these could be the same place or different places)
- who you want to be with you near the end of life
- values such as religious belief
- any dietary requirements you have
Talking to people about your wishes
It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or nurse about your wishes and preferences. They’ll be able to explain your treatment and care options and help you to understand how any decisions or choices you make will affect you. They can also discuss whether or not your wishes are realistic. For example, if you’d prefer to die at home but don’t have anyone close who can support you at home, it may be better for you to be cared for in a hospice.
It can be difficult to talk to the people close to you about your wishes and preferences for the end of life. Sometimes they may not want to acknowledge that you’re dying or they may disagree with you. However, if you feel able to, it’s important to involve those close to you when you fill in the document because it can help them to understand what you want, what’s likely to happen to you, and to be realistic about what is possible.
You can find more helpful tips about talking to your doctor and those close to you about your wishes for treatment and care in our booklet Starting the conversation.
Getting help to make an Advance Care Plan
Some people feel they need help from their nurse or doctor to fill in an ACP, but you can also complete one yourself.
You can write your own or use the document provided by Dying Matters.
Once completed you should keep a copy yourself and give a copy to anyone who’s involved in your care. You can change what you’ve written in your Advance Care Plan at any time, and it’s a good idea to regularly review it to make sure that it still accurately reflects your wishes.