Palliative Institute
Advance Care Planning
Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning

Advance care planning is a method for planning and documenting a person’s wishes for the kind of care they want now and in the future. It is valuable for every adult, and especially important for people with health issues.

There are five main steps to advance care planning:

  • Think about your values and goals
  • Learn about your health
  • Choose your agent
  • Tell others your wishes
  • Write a personal directive

What can it include?

A personal directive is a legal document that names the person you choose to make personal and health care decisions if you are not able due to sickness or injury. A personal directive can be created by anyone aged 18 or older and is ideally finalized while the person is still healthy.

A Goals of Care Designation Order is a medical order that your doctor or nurse practitioner writes about the health care you receive. A Goals of Care Designation Order helps the healthcare team match your unique values and preferences to care that is most appropriate for you and your healthcare condition. However, not everyone will need a Goals of Care Designation Order. Your doctor or nurse practitioner can help you determine if you need one. 

Why does it matter?

Advance care planning is important for any person, as well as for their loved ones and for the health care team by:

  • Ensuring everyone gets the kind of health care they actually want and is most appropriate for their health situation
  • Improving ongoing and end-of-life care
  • Providing loved ones with peace of mind and reducing stress and anxiety
  • Reducing unwanted treatment

Who should do it?

Advance care planning is relevant to everybody at every stage of life—including when a person is healthy. It is particularly important if a person:

  • Has a chronic illness or multiple illnesses
  • Has a family history of chronic illnesses
  • Is showing any signs of cognitive impairment
  • Is approaching the end of their life
  • Works in any type of potentially dangerous field

Who is involved?

The advance care planning process begins with the individual but is ultimately a team effort. Potential partners in the advance care planning process include:

  • Family and friends
  • Family doctors and other health care providers
  • Other caregivers
  • Lawyers and financial advisors

For more detailed information please visit advance care planning pages on MyHealth Alberta or Alberta Health Services. The Alberta Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT) also has extensive resources on personal directives—available in multiple languages.

For more information on our current advance care planning activities, visit our research and grants page.