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Planning ahead can be carried out in simple steps. Don’t feel you need to follow all these steps in order - just do what feels right for you and take your time.
The ways people can plan ahead vary across the four nations of the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and there are also some legal differences. The web pages in this section are about the ways people can plan ahead if they live in England and Wales. If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland you should ask a healthcare or legal professional to give you information that’s relevant to that country.
You can find more information in this section of the website, or you may want to contact an organisation such as
You can also seach for useful organisations| on our website.
They will be able to help you clarify your plans, and it may also help them feel involved.
For example, you may want to make a will| and write down your wishes and preferences for your care using the Preferred Priorities for Care document|.
It may take some time to discuss your plans and talk it all through. The professionals helping you won’t expect you to rush into making any plans unless you’re sure about them. Some people can take several months before they feel happy to make plans for their future care or treatment.
You may want to use the documents for Preferred Priorities for Care and Advance Decisions to Refuse Treatment| on our website. Or you can ask your healthcare professional to give you them. If you want to make a will or create a Lasting Power of Attorney|, it’s a good idea to see a solicitor as these are important legal documents.
Make sure they are easily accessible to your family, friends and healthcare professionals. Your family should know where they are.
This will make sure that they still reflect your wishes. Your wishes can vary over time, especially if your circumstances change.
This includes your will, Preferred Priorities for Care, Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment or your wishes for organ/tissue donation|. If you do change any of your plans, you need to make sure that everyone involved in your care knows. You should also document your new wishes, even if this isn’t a legal requirement for the particular plan you want to change. Documenting your wishes makes sure that everyone who’s involved in your care knows what they are.
My father has been diagnosed with a progressive illness that may, in the future, leave him unable to make decisions for himself. He understands the likely course of his illness, and is able to make decisions for himself at the present time. It was his choice to document where he wants to be cared for during the rest of his life, and to write a Lasting Power of Attorney in the event that he becomes unable to make decisions for himself.
We (his family) realise that his choices may change over time. We also realise that he may lose capacity to make decisions for himself. He has stated simply where he wants to be cared for and why, and also some arrangements for his funeral.
Having talked about his wishes (Preferred Priorities for Care) and written them down, my father has the chance to remain in control of his care when his condition deteriorates.
These conversations about advance care planning were difficult and took time. However, we will now be able to make sure that our father’s choices stay central to any care decisions and we will be involved in each stage of his future care. Knowing that we did our best for him will help us face whatever the future holds.
Content last reviewed: 1 September 2012
Next planned review: 2014
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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