I’m too busy. It’s bad luck. I’m too young. Those are just a few of the reasons that Canadians have for not having conversations with loved ones about what might happen if they couldn’t make medical decisions for themselves. But now there’s a perfect time to get talking – April 16th, also known as National Advance Care Planning Day.
Advance Care Planning is a process of communicating your future health care wishes and naming a Substitute Decision Maker to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Recent polls have revealed that fewer than 50% of Canadians have talked with their loved ones and nearly 40% are actually ‘creeped out’ by the conversation.
“It’s easy to make excuses – we are all busy, we think it’s depressing, we’ll do it later,” says Louise Hanvey, the Project Director for the Advance Care Planning in Canada Initiative. “But the reality is that you really don’t know when something might happen to you and you are unable to speak for yourself. Who would make decisions for you? Do they know your wishes and what to say or do?”
An important component of advance care planning is deciding on a Substitute Decision Maker – someone who will make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. There are different legal requirements for naming a Substitute Decision Maker in each province and territory. Once you decide, it’s time to start talking.
Research has shown that advance care planning significantly reduces stress, depression and anxiety in family members and caregivers who know your wishes and can act with confidence on your behalf.
The Initiative’s Speak Up website (www.advancecareplanning.ca) has a number of resources, including workbooks, videos, wallet cards, and conversation starters, as well as resources and information about legal requirements and local resources for each province and territory. A national interactive workbook is also available at www.myspeakupplan.ca.
“National Advance Care Planning Day is the perfect time to have these important conversations with your Substitute Decision Maker, family and friends,” says Ms. Hanvey. “It’s time to stop making excuses – and start talking.”
 “What Canadians Say: The Way Forward Survey Results”, is a quantitative online research survey of 2,976 Canadian adults. The poll was completed for the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association using the Harris/Decima’s proprietary online panel and is precluded from reporting a margin of error. The survey data was weighted using the 2011 Census to reflect the general population.
 Heyland, DK, Allan DE, Rocker G, Dodek, P, Pichora D, Gafni A. Discussing prognosis with patients and their families near the end of life. Impact on satisfaction with end of life care. Open Medicine 2009, 3(20:71-80)