Navigating Healthcare: The Power of Advance Care Planning

Published by Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association on

The Power of Advance Care Planning - ACP Day is April 16, 2024

As we approach Advance Care Planning Day on April 16th, the theme “If Not You, Who?” invites deep reflection:

Who would you trust to make your healthcare decisions if you could not communicate for yourself?

Advance Care Planning Canada encourages people to take control of their future health and personal care. It is important especially for situations where communication might be challenging or impossible. 

What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance Care Planning (ACP) is a simple and powerful process of reflection and communication. It allows you to consider your wishes, values, and beliefs. ACP involves personal reflection and discussions with those who matter most to you, and the selection of a person or people to advocate for you in case you cannot speak for yourself during a health emergency. The goal of ACP is to ensure your preferences for future health and personal care can be shared with healthcare practitioners, even if you are unable to communicate for yourself.

The 5 Steps of Advance Care Planning

  1. THINK about what is most important to you — your values, wishes, and beliefs.
  2. LEARN about your overall health, including any current conditions you want to better understand.
  3. DECIDE on your Substitute Decision Maker(s) — people willing and able to speak for you if you cannot.
  4. TALK about your values, beliefs, and wishes with your Substitute Decision Maker(s), family, friends, and healthcare providers.
  5. RECORD your values, wishes, and beliefs in your Advance Care Planning Workbook, or make a video, audio recording, or use any format that suits you.

The Time to Prepare is Now

Adults of every age and stage of health should engage in ACP to ensure preferences are respected in an emergency. Who could confidently make healthcare decisions aligned with your wishes if you were unable to communicate? Consider trusted individuals in your life — family members, friends, colleagues, and faith leaders. You have the authority to select someone you trust to navigate essential healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Use the reflection prompts below to start thinking about what matters most in your life, letting these insights guide your decision in choosing a Substitute Decision Maker.

What Matters Most To You?

  • What does a good day look like for you?
    • Ex: A lazy day watching TV with my dog, enjoying dinner with my children, taking care of my garden, spending time with family and friends, etc.
  • What gives you strength in difficult times?
    • Ex: My family, listening to my favourite music, visits from my friends, spending time outdoors…
  • What spiritual, cultural, or religious beliefs are important to you?
    • Ex: Going to mass every Sunday, Shabbat dinner with my children, Pipe ceremonies, etc.
  • Who do you trust most to make decisions for your health care that follow your wishes?
    • A Substitute Decision Maker (SDM) can be a family member, friend, child, or a faith leader, for example.
  • What do you value more: the possibility of a longer life or the possibility of a better quality of life?
    • Ex. This can help guide your SDM and allow them to prioritize what matters most to you when weighing your different care options.
  • Would your SDM be comfortable making important decisions about your health quickly or in an emergency?
    • You should trust your SDM to make decisions that align with your wishes, even if they would want something else for themselves.
  • Have you spoken to your them about what matters most in your life?
    • When an SDM knows what you value most in your life, they can make more informed decisions about your health care.

The insights you gather are not only valuable to you, they are crucial for those who may step in as your Substitute Decision Maker (SDM). Share the responses to these reflection prompts with your SDM so that they truly understand what matters most to you.

If Not You, Who?

There is no time like the present to take charge of your future health and personal care. The Advance Care Planning Canada website offers free practical guides and resources to help ensure your healthcare decisions reflect your values and wishes. Engage in open conversations, share your insights, and empower your SDM to be prepared to advocate for you when it matters most.


Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association

The Advance Care Planning Canada initiative, led by the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA), focuses on advancing the Pan-Canadian Framework for Advance Care Planning. The ACP initiative works in collaboration with various sectors and professional groups to accomplish our goals. 

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