Ways to plan ahead for your future care if you live in Scotland
This section is about some of the ways you can plan ahead and make choices about your future care.
Many people think that they don’t need to make decisions about their future care unless they reach a time when they have a serious illness. This might be advanced cancer, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or motor neurone disease (MND).
My dad was 57 when he died of advanced prostate and bowel cancer. Towards the end of his life he became ill very quickly and was unable to tell us where he wanted to be cared for. He was admitted to hospital and died there. Although he was well cared for, I can’t help thinking that if we could have turned the clock back and asked my father what he wanted, he would have told us that he wanted to die at home with his family, not in hospital.
Planning ahead is important, regardless of whether you have an illness or not. This is because none of us can say for sure whether we’ll always be able to make our own decisions about our care. For example, some people may become very ill unexpectedly, and be unable to make decisions about their healthcare or make any financial plans for their close family or friends.
It’s also important because it’s not always possible for healthcare or other professionals to know exactly how you would like to be cared for in certain situations.
For example, if you became unwell and unable to talk to them. Or if you were unable to make decisions about your care, for example if you were unconscious.
Remember that you are the expert on you, and only you know how you would like to be cared for. Even your closest family and friends may not know exactly how and where you would wish to be cared for if you haven’t told them in advance. This might mean that you aren’t cared for in the place you would have chosen.
For example, if you had an illness and your condition was to suddenly deteriorate, you may want to be cared for at home rather than in hospital. If your health or social care team and family don’t know this and you can’t tell them, you may be admitted to hospital.
If you plan your care in advance, there’s more chance that your care will be right for you. Planning ahead can also help you to feel more in control of your life. You will still be able to alter your plans if you change your mind later on.
Ways you can plan ahead
There are several ways people can make plans in advance. Although we list several ways here, you don’t have to use them all. Many people find it helpful to start with the ones that are most relevant to them.
Making a will is the only way to make sure that your wishes are carried out after you die and that your family and friends are provided for in the way you want. A will includes who you would like your property, personal possessions and money to go to after you die. It may also include who you’d like to look after any dependants you have and any specific funeral arrangements you want.
Your wishes for your care
You can either tell people your wishes, or write them down. These will be your specific wishes about how and where you would like to be cared for if you ever become unwell or ill. They can include where you would like to be cared for - for example at home, or in a hospital, care home or hospice.
Power of Attorney
Creating a Power of Attorney means putting in writing the name of someone you trust to make decisions about or manage your property and affairs, and/or your personal welfare. This may include your finances, legal affairs and decisions about your healthcare.
The person you name will make decisions on your behalf if you’re no longer able to do so. It’s a legal document and needs to be registered.
You can also write down your decisions about specific treatments that you don’t want to have, if you ever become unable to let your doctors or family know later. These are known as Advance Directives but they may also be referred to as Living Wills or Advance Decisions.
Organ and tissue donation
Some people choose to register their wishes for organ and tissue donation or donating their body for medical research.
You may wish to be involved in planning your funeral. This can be helpful if you know how you would like your funeral to be carried out. You can also pay for your funeral in advance.