How To Begin Advance Care Planning

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Why should I plan my care in advance?

Advance care planning allows the people closest to you and your health care team to know your preferences for health and personal care if you’re too sick or injured to speak for yourself.

By preparing your plan now, you reduce stress and conflict for your trusted ones, especially when important healthcare decisions need to be made.

When should I start planning?

The best time to start advance care planning is now. Ideally, you should start the process when you are healthy and before there is an urgent need for it. 

What does it involve?

Advance care planning involves thinking about your future care, discussing things with family and friends, writing your decisions down, and storing these documents in a place where people can easily find them.

It includes the following:

  • Personal directive – a legal document that records who you want to make decisions for you if you are unable.
  • Goals of Care Designation order – a set of instructions given to the heath care team involved in your care that must be followed.
  • Tracking record – a document that your health care providers use to record the conversations that you have about advance care planning.

All three of these important documents are held in a plastic folder called a Green Sleeve.

How do I get started?

There are five steps to advance care planning. You may follow these parts in whichever order makes sense to you.

Think about your values and goals.

Use the My Wishes Alberta workbook to help you identify what is most important to you about your life, health and personal care.

Learn about your own health.

Talk to your healthcare providers about any questions, symptoms or concerns you have about your health. See these resources for help learning about your health.

Choose someone to make health and personal decisions for you if you can’t.

This guide helps you understand what an agent is and their responsibilities so that you can choose the best person to make decisions for you.

Communicate your wishes.

Pick a game or conversations starter to help you start talking about what matters most or use the My Wishes Alberta workbook to begin conversations with the people close to you and with your health care provider(s).

Document your wishes in a personal directive.

Read about what a personal directive is and how to create one.

What comes next?

Your advance care plan is far more than a set of documents – it is an ongoing process. It is not meant to be done in one sitting and then forgotten about.

Review and update your documents as your health or wishes change. Continue to have conversations with the people closest to you and your health care providers.

You may also want to plan for other aspects of your life, such as finances, property and possessions. For this you will need a will and an enduring power of attorney.


For more reading on advance care planning, please access our Advance Care Planning Alberta brochure.

You can also test your knowledge of advance care planning with this quiz, complete with answer key and resources for further learning. 

For further advance care planning resources, please visit our resource directory.

Advance care planning FAQs

An agent is the person you name in your personal directive to make decisions for you if you are unable.

Anything can happen at any time. The best time to start thinking, talking and planning for your future health care is now.

No. Wills are important but they don’t apply to health care instructions when you can’t speak for yourself. This requires a personal directive.

Wills only come into effect after you die, while personal directives take effect while you are still alive but are too sick or injured to make your own decisions.

If you become too sick or injured to speak for yourself, your agent, as identified in your personal directive, will be called upon to make decisions about your care. You advance care planning conversations and documents will inform these care decisions.


It is recommended that you write down your preferences, store these documents in a Green Sleeve and place your Green Sleeve on top of or near your fridge.

That way emergency responders will be able to find the instructions and inform health care providers.

Advance care planning is an ongoing process and your documents should be reviewed and updated as your preferences change.

You can change your mind at any time, but it’s important that this be written down and that you tell your health care team and those closest to you.

It is important to tell your agent, the people closest to you, your health care providers and your lawyer (if you have one) about your end-of-life plans.

This will help prevent confusion in your written instructions. This is also important if you update your advance care planning documents – be sure to tell your agent and everyone else who needs to know.

Writing down your instructions will help prevent confusion and conflict in stressful situations when important decisions need to be made.

Doing this and having ongoing conversations will help ensure your instructions are carried as you wish.

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Major life milestone?

Hi, I’m Sukhjot and I just graduated from university. I have my whole adult life in front of me, and I intend to enjoy every minute of it. I’m living on my own now and I want my parents and other family members to know exactly what my future care wishes are in case something really bad happens to me.

Personal Directive