Planning for the Future

Advance care planning allows individuals to take proactive measures towards future healthcare treatments and needs. From advance directives to representation agreements, understanding the tools available should be a priority of every British Columbian.

When it comes to advance care planning, ignorance is anything but bliss. While no one wants to think about being unable to make important decisions regarding their health in a time of need, having a plan in place is critical. It is a way to help ensure that a person's voice is heard, regardless of what the future may hold.

On September 1st, 2011, new personal planning (or incapacity) legislation was put into place, affording British Columbians the opportunity to prepare for the future by taking proactive measures.

Advance Directives, Enduring Power of Attorney, and Representation Agreements

In British Columbia, health care providers work alongside patients to help ensure that medical needs are met. For a capable adult, this often means respecting the wishes of the patient regarding their health and treatment.

For an adult who is incapable of making their own decisions, whether as a result of traumatic injury, serious illness, or other circumstances, the ability to provide guidance about treatment no longer exists. As a result, family, friends and loved ones are often responsible for making difficult decisions.

There are several tools available to individuals wishing to plan ahead including:

· Advance Directive- Provides direct direction to health care providers regarding the acceptance or refusal of medical treatments, life support, or medical interventions

· Enduring Power of Attorney- Authorizes an individual to make legal and financial decisions on behalf of another

· Standard Representation Agreement- Authorizes an individual to make legal, financial, personal care, and some health care decisions on behalf of another. A standard representation agreement does not allow a representative to make decisions regarding the refusal of life support or life-prolonging medical interventions.

· Enhanced Representation Agreement- Authorizes an individual to make personal care decisions and certain health care decisions including acceptance or refusal of life support or life-prolonging medical interventions. An enhanced representation agreement does not have the authority to make financial decisions.

Why Plan Ahead?

Planning for the future can be difficult but the benefits tend to outweigh the negative. By establishing an advanced care plan, individuals are able to help ensure that their wishes, values, and beliefs are respected, even if they cannot speak for themselves. They are helping alleviate the pressure and stress that loved ones feel when making difficult decisions, especially in times of medical crisis.

The implications of an advanced care plan are serious and have the potential to impact the way that a person's end-of-life care is undertaken. It is important to get the right support when drafting an advanced care plan, especially when establishing advance directives and representation agreements. Ensuring that these documents are drafted in a manner that is correct and valid is essential, as is keeping the documents up to date as lives and circumstances change.

The future may be unknown but steps can, and should, be taken to help mitigate difficult situations. Taking the time to make advance care plans while healthy and sound can go a long way in providing peace of mind.