How to plan ahead for your future care in Northern Ireland
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 web pages in this section are about the ways people can plan ahead if they live in Northern Ireland. We have other information about planning ahead in England and Wales, and in Scotland.
Find out about the different ways you can plan aheadBack to top
You can find more information in this section of the website, especially our information called Ways to plan ahead, to plan ahead or you may want to contact an organisation such as:
- Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland
- Think Ahead
- Dying Matters
The professionals involved in your care can also help.
You can seach for more useful organisations on our website.
Identify the ways you’d like to plan ahead
You may want to:
Remember that it’s up to you whether you use one or two of these ways to plan ahead or all of them.
Talk to your family and friends
They’ll be able to help you clarify your plans, and it may also help them feel involved.
Arrange to speak to a health and social care professional
A professional can discuss with you the ways you’d like to plan ahead. It may take some time to discuss your plans and talk it all through. The professional won’t expect you to rush into making any plans unless you’re sure about them. Some people take many months before they feel happy to make plans for their future care or treatment.
Write down the plans you'd like to make
When you’ve decided what plans you’d like to make, it’s best if you write them down. You can use the What’s important to me document [PDF, 33Kb] and the My Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment document [PDF, 36Kb] to do this.
The What’s important to me document will help you think about your wishes for your care if you were to become seriously ill. You may want to fill this in before you speak to a health and social care professional about completing an Advance Care Plan.
See a solicitor if you want to make a will or create an Enduring Power of Attorney
These are important legal documents, so make sure you speak to a solicitor. A solicitor will also help you with writing an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment.
Things to remember when planning aheadBack to top
Keep all your documents in a safe place
You should also make sure your family, friends and health and social care team can find them easily. Your health and social care team may ask you for permission to share your written plans with other professionals who may need to be involved in your care.
Review your documents regularly
This is important to make sure the documents still reflect your wishes. Your wishes can vary over time, especially if circumstances change, such as your health. You can review your documents with your health and social care professionals. It’s important to include the people close to you too.
You can change your plans at any time
You can change the plans you’ve made at any time. If you do change them, make sure 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 everyone involved in your care knows what they are.
An example of planning ahead - Annemarie's story (George's specialist nurse)
I first met George, an 88-year-old man, when I was asked by his GP to assess him at home. George lived with his daughter, Nicola. He had COPD and was getting more breathless, so I organised for him to have oxygen at home.
Over the next few months George’s condition and breathing continued to get worse. He told me he had an important milestone that he was determined to make. His daughter Nicola was due to get married and George wanted to be at her wedding. When the day came, with a bit of forward planning, some help, and oxygen available at the wedding venue, George managed to get to Nicola’s wedding and had a wonderful time.
I continued to see George regularly. He was aware that his condition was getting worse and that time was limited. George told me that he wanted to spend his remaining time at home rather than going into hospital. So with Nicola we discussed making a plan for George to be cared for at home. His bed was moved downstairs and carers were organised to come and help him with his personal care.
On one visit, George talked about making an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment, as he didn’t want to have his heart restarted (be resuscitated) if it were to stop beating. I made sure his GP was aware of this and that it was recorded in his medical and nursing records. This meant that if any out-of-hours services were called to George’s house, they would know that he didn’t want to be resuscitated.
George agreed to go on the radio to discuss the importance of planning ahead and some of the plans he had made. This included his wish to remain at home and his wish not to have his heart restarted if it were to stop beating. The radio presenter asked him what he wanted to do before he died. To my surprise, George said that he really wanted to see his sweet pea grow in his garden. A little while later I received the most beautiful photo of George holding his sweet pea.
As the weeks went by, George became weaker and it was clear that he was dying. He was still able to chat and talk about his needs, so I asked him whether he wanted a nurse to come and care for him overnight. He agreed but said to leaveit for another day. George died at about 6am the next morning, very peacefully in his sleep. This was just as he and his family had hoped.