Planning ahead for the end of life

If you have a terminal illness, or are approaching the end of your life, it may be a good idea to make plans for your future care.

Planning ahead in this way is sometimes called “advance care planning”, and involves thinking and talking about your wishes for how you will be cared for in the final months of your life.

People usually carry out advance care planning because they have a condition that is expected to get worse, which may mean they will not be able to make or communicate their decisions in the future.

Anyone can plan for their future care, whether they are approaching the end of life or not. Advance care planning can let people know your wishes and feelings while you are still able to do so.

Things to consider

An advance statement is a written statement that sets down your preferences, wishes, beliefs and values regarding your future care.

The aim is to provide a guide to anyone who might have to make decisions in your best interest if you have lost the capacity to make decisions or to communicate them.

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An advance decision (sometimes known as an advance decision to refuse treatment, an ADRT, or a living will) is a decision you can make now in order to refuse a specific type of treatment at some time in the future.

It lets your family, carers and health professionals know whether you want to refuse specific treatments in the future. This means they will know your wishes if you are unable to make or communicate those decisions yourself.

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If you become unable to make decisions for yourself in the future, someone will need to make decisions for you.

Who does this will depend on the situation.

Generally, professionals will make decisions about your health and social care, and your family or carers will decide on day-to-day matters.

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Your will lets you decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death.

If you make a will you can also make sure you don’t pay more Inheritance Tax than you need to.

You can write your will yourself, but you should get advice if your will isn’t straightforward.

You need to get your will formally witnessed and signed to make it legally valid.

If you want to update your will, you need to make an official alteration (called a ‘codicil’) or make a new will.

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