You can plan ahead in simple steps. You do not need to follow all these steps in order. Do what feels right for you and take your time.
We have information about the different ways you can plan ahead. It is your decision whether you use just one way or many ways to plan ahead. You may find it helpful to contact another organisation for more information and support.
If you live in Scotland
Ask a healthcare professional if they have a specific document for writing down your wishes for your care or making an advance directive. These are also called living wills.
Key Information Summary
Your healthcare professionals may record some of your wishes for your care on a Key Information Summary (KIS). This is a care summary that has information about what is important to you, including your wishes.
A KIS document makes sure that this key information is available for professionals involved in your care to refer to when your GP surgery is closed. This includes out-of-hours GPs or paramedics. Your healthcare team can tell you more about the KIS document.
Make sure important documents can be found easily and quickly by your family, friends, and health or social care professionals. Tell your family and GP where they are kept. Wills can be recorded at nationalwillregister.co.uk
It is a good idea to make a list of important documents and where to find them. You could give a copy of the list to anyone who is helping to manage your affairs.
The list could say where to find things like:
- your will
- an advance decision to refuse treatment or advance directive
- your funeral plan
- your bank and building society details
- any insurance policies you have
- your birth certificate
- your marriage or civil partnership certificate, if you have one
- your national insurance number
- the details of your accountant, solicitor and tax inspector.
Review your documents regularly
Reviewing your documents is important, as it makes sure they still reflect your most recent wishes. Your wishes might change over time, especially if your situation changes.
You can review your documents with your health and social care professionals. They will help you write down any changes you want to make to your plans, and make sure everything is up to date. It is also important to regularly talk to the people close to you about any changes in your wishes.
You can make changes to your plans at any time. If you do change any of your plans, you may want to talk to your family and friends first. You will need to make sure that everyone involved in your care knows. This includes your GP and other health professionals.
You should also write down your new wishes, even if this is not a legal requirement for the plan you want to change. Writing down your wishes and sharing them makes sure that everyone involved in your care knows what they are.
You may find it helpful to use our planning ahead checklist. You can use it to keep a record of:
- the ways you have planned ahead
- important contacts
- where you keep certain documents.
Make sure someone close to you knows where you keep this checklist.
You may not always be able to make decisions for yourself if you become unwell.
If you have cancer or another illness, you might find it hard to plan ahead. You may already be struggling with fears and uncertainties about the future. There are healthcare and other professionals who can help you, as well as your family and friends.
If you want to start planning ahead, you can talk to your:
- district nurse
- specialist nurse
- social worker
- hospital doctors.
They will be able to tell you the best person to speak to.
It is a good idea to speak to a solicitor if you want to:
- make a will
- create a lasting power of attorney (England and Wales)
- create a power of attorney (Scotland).
This is because these are important legal documents.
Starting a conversation about planning ahead may feel difficult. You could start with something like:
‘I’ve been thinking about making plans for my future care, just in case something happens to me and I can’t make decisions for myself. I wonder whether you could help me, or tell me who could help me find out my options and explain what I need to do?’
Family and friends
If you can, it is helpful to involve people who are close to you, such as your family and friends. They may be able to help you think through some of the issues, so you can plan ahead better. It will also help them know what your wishes are, so they can help make sure they are carried out.
Your plans may involve your family members or friends taking on more responsibility for your care or making decisions for you. For example, this might need to happen if you would like to die at home. It is important to discuss this with them. Talk with them about whether they think they will be able to help look after you, and what worries they might have.
If they do not want to talk about it
Sometimes family and friends do not want to talk about planning ahead. They may not seem able to think about the future. They may not want to talk about your worries, or they may change the subject when you try to talk about them. If you find this difficult to cope with, try explaining why it is important for you to plan ahead.
You could also ask them to read this information so you can talk about it together when you feel ready. Perhaps start by reassuring them that this is something you want to do and that it would help if you could talk to them about it.
You could try saying something like:
‘I know it’s difficult, but I would really like to talk to you about how I would like to be cared for if I became very unwell.’