Personal Directives: Advanced Care Planning
Updated: May 7, 2020
In Alberta, an advanced directive or living will is referred to as a personal directive (PD).
This directive is important to have in case you find yourself unable to make decisions about your healthcare. However, it is entirely optional.
Why is it important? Although we don’t like to think about something happening to us due to illness or injury, it can and does happen. This can put family members and loved ones in distress. It can sometimes lead to conflict when a person’s healthcare wishes are unclear. Would the person want to be on life support? Continue or discontinue treatments?
In a personal directive you’ll be able to write down your healthcare wishes in this directive and assign an agent to speak for you in the event that you can’t.
Not something easy to think about but if you’re able to and/or have strong values that you want honored, it’s an important step to make.
What is in a personal Directive?
I followed the list provided by Alberta.ca and copied it here. You can find the full document here: https://www.alberta.ca/personal-directive.aspx
“Your instructions can be about any or all personal matters that are non-financial, such as:
medical treatments you would or wouldn’t want
where you’d like to live
who you’d like to live with
who you want to temporarily care for your minor children
choices about other personal activities:
any other personal and legal decisions”
Creating Your Advanced Directive
It may be helpful to start slow with this and cover your basic and most important decisions. It can be as simple or as detailed as you want it to be. I have found that the more I read about all the choices, the more overwhelming it feels, so take your time to think about these questions and have a discussion with whomever is going to be your agent.
The goal of having a PD is to give a sense of comfort and control knowing that if something were to happen, your family will confidently know your wishes.
Some questions to ask yourself when you’re working on your personal directive.
who would you want to speak on you your behalf. Have a discussion with this person(s)!
Discuss what treatments one would want if you were to have a chronic illness but were also experiencing other treatable illnesses. Would treatment for example of Pneumonia prolong the dying process or add to more medical procedures that interfere with dying comfortable.
CPR or No CPR?
What are your beliefs surrounding ventilators, blood transfusions, intravenous fluid, or other life-support systems?
If you are unable to make the decision, would you want to receive transplant surgery?
Would you like to remain at home for as long as possible?
Do you have dietary restrictions? (religious or spiritually based)
Do you have personal preferences or religious beliefs surrounding clothing and hygiene practices?
Do you have dependents that you want cared for by certain family members?
Consider reviewing your personal directive regularly as a person’s values and health circumstances can change.
https://www.alberta.ca/personal-directive.aspx Provides a PDF template for us to use to create the PD or use it as a guide.
The books below also give a very detailed discussion about language to use and many possible decisions to think about.
Created my Personal Directive, now what?
After being signed by you and your witness, you make copies of your PD and provide it to your agent(s), doctor, any other key people, and keep it in a safe place.
You may also register it with the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee so that healthcare providers can contact your agent(s) if necessary. But again this is optional. What they do is keep the contact information only, not the PD itself, so your agent(s) should have a copy of the PD. Further direction on how to register your PD is found here:https://www.alberta.ca/personal-directive.aspx
Further Reading: Let Me Decide. By Dr. William Molloy Before I Go By Jane Duncan Rogers
Alberta Guide to Personal Directive https://www.alberta.ca/personal-directive.aspx Information about Advance Care Planning https://myhealth.alberta.ca/alberta/Pages/advance-care-planning-document.aspx