Advance care planning urged

Only 45 per cent of Canadians have talked to someone about their future health care preferences

Most of us instinctively put on our seatbelts when we get into a car. And we know it’s a good idea to put on a helmet before getting on a bike.

So why haven’t the majority of Canadians also taken the precaution of planning for their future health care?

A recent Harris-Decima poll revealed that only 45 per cent of Canadians have talked to someone about their future health care preferences, despite the fact that the majority of them believe it is important to do so.

Advance Care Planning, a process of communicating your future health care wishes and naming a Substitute Decision Maker to speak for you if you are unable to do so, offers a way to start those conversations.

“Advance Care Planning is just another positive choice, like wearing your seatbelt or safety gear when you take part in a physical activity,” said Louise Hanvey, the Project Director for the Advance Care Planning in Canada Initiative.

“When you make an advance care plan, you’re making a healthy lifestyle choice for yourself – and for those around you.”

The Advance Care Planning in Canada Initiative recommends five steps for doing advance care planning:

1. THINK about what’s important to you

2. LEARN about different medical procedures and what they can or can’t do

3. DECIDE on a substitute decision maker – someone who is willing and able to speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself

4. TALK about your wishes with your loved ones

5. RECORD your wishes – write them down or make a recording

The Initiative’s Speak Up website ( has a number of resources, including workbooks, videos, wallet cards and conversation starters to help Canadians make their plan.

“Advance care planning is a way of looking after your health,” said Hanvey. “It gives you peace of mind – and gives those around you the gift of knowing what’s important to you, especially if they have to make decisions on your behalf.

“April 16 is National Advance Care Planning Day – this year, make a plan as part of your healthy lifestyle.”