Your wishes

When planning ahead, you may want to think about how and where you would like to be cared for. This is in case your health changes and you become too unwell to tell other people your wishes.

It is better to write down your wishes and what is important to you. This will help your family, friends and health care professionals know how you would like to be cared for.

These statements about your preferences and wishes are not legally binding. This means they cannot be enforced by law. But healthcare professionals will use them to help guide decisions they make about your care.

If you live in England and Wales, there are different documents that can be used to record your wishes. These include a:

  • record of advance care plans and preferences
  • statement of wishes and care preferences
  • preferred priorities for care document.

If you live in Scotland, your written wishes and preferences might be called an anticipatory care plan. There are different documents that can be used. These include a booklet and an app called My ACP.

You can ask your health professionals which documents are used in your area.

It can be reassuring for family and friends to know that you have recorded your wishes. Make sure they know where you keep your documents.

Talking about your plan

Try to talk about your plans with your family or a close friend before you write down your wishes. This can be helpful if you want them to:

  • be involved in your care
  • help you make the best decisions about your treatment and care.

It is also important to talk about your plans with the healthcare professionals looking after you. This includes your GP or specialist nurse. You may want to talk with them about how serious your illness is and what might happen in the future.

Knowing what support is available in your area can help you get back some control in your life.

You can talk to a healthcare professional about whether your wishes are realistic. For example, you may hope you can stay at home when you are dying. They can talk to you about whether this might be possible. If your wishes are not realistic, try to think of some other options.

It is also helpful to think about who will look after:

  • anyone you are caring for (your dependants)
  • any pets you have.

If it is not possible to follow your wishes

It may not always be possible to follow your wishes when you become more unwell. For example, you may want to be cared for at home by a family member. But if they become ill or too tired, they may not be able to do this.

You may not have any family members or close friends who can support you. Sometimes healthcare professionals can arrange care for you, so you can stay at home. If this is not possible, they will plan for you to have the best possible care somewhere else. This may be in a care home, hospital or hospice.

What to include in your wishes for your care

Try to include what is most important to you. If you are worried about a particular part of your care, you can write a plan of what you would want.

The plan might include the following:

  • Where you would most like to be cared for when you cannot look after yourself. For example, you might want to be cared for at home, or in a hospital, care home or hospice.
  • Where you would prefer to be cared for when you are dying. Again, this could be at home, or in a hospital, care home or hospice.
  • What kind of care and treatments you would like. But remember, you cannot demand specific treatments.
  • Any spiritual, religious or cultural practices that you would like to be included in your care.
  • Who you would like to be part of your care. For example, you might want family members or close friends to be involved.
  • Who you would like to make decisions about your care if you become unable to make the decisions yourself. If you live in England or Wales you might want to create a lasting power of attorney so that others can act on your behalf. If you live in Scotland you might want to create a power of attorney.
  • Whether you want to choose more than one attorney or a replacement attorney, in case your original attorney is unable to act on your behalf.
  • Who you would like to look after any pets.

Writing down your wishes for your care

Ask your health care professionals if they have a document where you can write down your wishes and preferences.

There may be a specific document that is used where you live.

Once you have completed the document, share it with anyone who is, or is likely to be, involved in your care.

This may include:

  • a family member
  • a close friend
  • your nurse
  • your GP or hospital doctor.

The healthcare team looking after you will keep a copy of some of the information for their records. You also need to keep a copy in a safe place at home. Tell people involved in your care where it is. You might have a fridge sticker with information on. If you need to call an emergency doctor or paramedic, the sticker can tell them where you keep your documents. This is so they can follow your wishes. Your family or carers can also help make sure your wishes are followed.

It is important to regularly review your wishes and keep them up to date. You can change your mind at any time. But remember you need to make sure you record your changes. You also need to tell certain people and give them an updated copy of the document. You should tell the following people if you make any changes to your plan:

  • your family or next of kin
  • your community nurse
  • your GP
  • your hospital doctor.

If you live in Scotland, having a Key Information Summary (KIS) ensures everyone knows what your wishes are. If you are admitted or transferred to a hospital, care home or hospice, take your written plan with you. Show it to the staff looking after you, so they know what your wishes and preferences are for your care.

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