How To Begin Advance Care Planning

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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 – a set of instructions given to the heath care team involved in your care that must be followed.
  • Green Sleeve – a plastic folder that holds your advance care planning forms and other important health care documents. It should be kept on top of the refrigerator in your home.

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.


What are your values and preferences for your future living situation and your health care?

Who can make personal and health decisions for you if you can’t?

The My Wishes Alberta workbook contains questions to help you determine what is important to you.


Do you have a good understanding of your current health situation?

If you have an existing health condition, talk to your healthcare providers about treatments and how your health situation might change in the future.


Who will speak for you if an unexpected or sudden medical event leaves you unable to communicate?

It is important to carefully select someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you are too sick or injured to speak for yourself.


Discuss with the people that you trust and your healthcare providers about your wishes, values and beliefs.

Having these important conversations can be difficult. Make a list of the topics you want to talk about.

The following resources can help you start these conversations:


Record who you choose to make decisions for you in a personal directive, which is an advance care planning document.


For further advance care planning resources, including Alberta-specific material from AHS, guides and workbooks and games and conversation starters, 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 to you at any time, regardless of your age. You can start the process of advance care planning at any time but the best time to start thinking, talking and planning for your future health care is when you are young.

Remember, your advance care planning documents should be updated as often as needed.

No. Although a will is an important planning document, it will not help to carry out your health care instructions when you can’t speak for yourself. This requires a personal directive.

A will is a document that outlines how you would like your property and possessions to be distributed after you die. A will only come into effect when you die.

personal directive is an advance care planning document that allows you to choose someone to make decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

A personal directive comes into effect when you are still alive but unable make decisions.

In the event that 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.

Otherwise, if you are able to make your own decisions, you will still be able to do so after writing your personal directive.

When you write down your instructions for your future medical care, in addition to talking to your agent and those closest to you about your instructions, it is also important to also have these conversations with your health care providers.

After discussing your instructions, your health care provider will recommended the best type of care for you, which may be written down in a goals of care designation order.

All these documents are kept in a green sleeve. See the green sleeve section for further information on where to put this.

It is natural for our lives and the people around us to change. Therefore it is important to self-reflect, continue life and death conversations with those closest to you and review your advance care planning documents when things change.

Remember, advance care planning is not done once and completed for good. It is an ongoing process that should be reviewed as your wishes and values change.

It is also important to tell your agent, the people closest to you, your health care providers and your lawyer 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.

This goes hand in hand with having conversations about your instructions. Doing both 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. As much as I feel invincible right now, I would want my parents and other family members to know exactly what my future care wishes are, in case I am no longer able to speak for myself.

Personal Directive