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Planning ahead for our healthcare isn’t something we usually think about. There are healthcare and other professionals who can help you, as well as your family and friends.
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.
If we’re well, we don’t expect to become seriously ill. We may assume that we’ll always be able to make decisions for ourselves even when we’re unwell, but this isn’t always the case.
For many people with cancer or a long-term illness, planning ahead may feel particularly difficult. You may already be struggling to cope with fears and uncertainties about the future|. It’s important that you don’t feel alone when planning ahead. Remember that there are healthcare and other professionals who can help you, as well as your family and friends.
There are many professionals who can help you with advance care planning. You can ask your GP, district nurse, specialist community nurse, social worker or your hospital doctors who is the best person to speak to about advance care planning. If you’re thinking about making a will you should contact a solicitor.
It’s fine for you to raise the subject with one of these professionals. However, it might feel difficult to know how to begin. You may want to start the conversation with something like this:
‘I’ve been thinking about making an advance care plan just in case something happens to me in the future. I wonder whether you could help me, or point me in the direction of someone who could help me explore what options I have and what I need to do?’
Involving people who are close to you, such as your family and friends, can be really helpful. They may be able to help you think through some of the issues so you can plan ahead better. It’ll also help them to know what your wishes are so they can help make sure they are carried out.
If your plans involve your family or friends taking on more responsibility for your care - for example if you want to die at home| and need them to look after you - it’s important to discuss this with them. You can ask them whether they think this extra responsibility will be too much for them. If it is, you can ask your healthcare team for advice. They can tell you more about support that might be available to help them, and about other care options.
Sometimes family and friends don’t want to talk| about planning ahead. They may appear to ignore the fact that you want to think about the future, perhaps by playing down your anxieties and changing the subject. If this upsets or hurts you, try telling them. Perhaps start by reassuring them that this is something you want to do and it will help if you could talk to them about it. You could try saying something like this:
‘I know it’s difficult to talk about this, but I’d really like to chat through how I would like to be cared for if my health was to suddenly get worse.’
Content last reviewed: 1 September 2012
Next planned review: 2014
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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