Embrace Life,
Plan Ahead

Preparing for Life's Final Journey

You can have a say in your health care, even when things get tough...

Imagine a world where you and your seriously ill loved ones are comfortable and supported, where their pain is eased, and their emotional and spiritual needs are met. That's what palliative care is all about.
... And when your or your loved ones are nearing the end of your lives, wouldn't it be wonderful if you could live each day fully and with dignity? That's where end-of-life care comes in.

... But here's the thing – have you thought about what you or your loved ones really want when it comes to their care? That's where advanced care planning steps in. It's like a guiding light that helps makes sure you get the care you truly desire.

Ready to learn more? Take our Introduction to Palliative and End-of-Life Care microcourse or explore the webpage below to discover valuable information.

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How Do You Plan For the Future?

Planning for the future is important, especially when it comes to your health. This is called advanced care planning. It helps you think about what you want if you get really sick and can't make decisions. It's like a roadmap for your doctors and loved ones, so they know how to take care of you the way you want. You'll pick a representative, talk about your health, and write down your wishes. It's all about making sure you have the best life, even when you're sick. Let's walk through the 5 steps to do this.

Think about what's important to you.
When you start planning for your future care, think about what you like and want. Answer these questions, there's no wrong answer:
- Did anything happen to you or others in a hospital that made you think about what you want in the future?
- What does a good life mean to you? Talking with your family? Taking care of yourself?
- Who are the special people in your life?
- Do your religious beliefs affect what kind of medical help you want?
- Have you thought about giving away your organs after you die?
Understand your health
Do you know how healthy you are right now? If you're sick, ask your doctor about:
- What might happen because of your sickness?
- What treatments could help your sickness?
- What these treatments do? It's good to know what kind of health choices you might need to make.
Pick a representative
Sometimes, people get hurt or sick and can't tell others what they want. It's important to pick someone you trust to speak for you if you can't. You'll put this person's name on a special paper. In Alberta, this person is called your "agent". When you're picking your agent, ask yourself:
- Do I trust this person to make health choices for me, based on what I want?
- Can they speak clearly?
- Can they make hard choices when they're upset?
- Are they willing and able to speak for me if I can't?
Tell others what you want.
For this step, talk to your family, close friends, and your doctors about what you want for your health. Make a list of the most important things. Here's how you can start talking:
- My health is good now, but I want to talk about what I want if I get sick someday.
- I've been thinking about giving away my organs when I die. Can we talk about that?
- My doctor asked me to write down what I want if I get sicker. Can we talk?
- If you change your mind about what you want, tell your helper, loved ones, or doctors.
Write a Personal Directive
In Alberta, a special document called a personal directive lets you pick your agent and write down your wishes.

- This document only works if you can't make your own health decisions.
- Share your personal directive with your agent, family, and doctors.
- Check it if your health or wishes change.
- You can write your own personal directive, use a special template, or get help from a lawyer.

If you don't have a personal directive and you can't make decisions:
- You don't get to pick who makes decisions for you.
- A doctor may ask your closest relative to make decisions for you.
- A family member or friend might have to go to court to become your guardian, which takes time and money.

Navigating Life's Final Chapter: Case Studies

The Adeola Family

The Adeola family, overflowing with joy for their three young and lively children, led a vibrant and busy life in their Alberta-based Nigerian-Canadian community. The idea of drafting a will or discussing what would happen if someone in their family became very sick seemed far away and a little scary. But after participating in a local seminar about the importance of being ready for any unforeseen events, they felt inspired to act.

In Yoruba culture, the community plays a big part in life. The Adeola family took this opportunity to discuss with their community what they would want for their children if they could no longer care for them. This wasn't an easy conversation, but their friends and family understood and promised to respect their wishes.

By doing this, the Adeola family turned a hard conversation into a special moment of love and care for their children. And they showed others in their community that it's okay to talk about these things, not as something scary, but as a way to make sure everyone is cared for, just like they would want.

The Zhang Family

Mr. Zhang's family was very close. But when Mr. Zhang got very sick, it was hard for them to talk about what kind of care he wanted. In their Chinese culture, it was thought to be bad luck to talk about sickness or death. They didn't want to bring more bad luck.

But then, they talked to their family doctor, who was also Chinese. He explained something very important. He talked about 'yi', which means the doctor's duty. He said it was his job to make sure Mr. Zhang was taken care of the way he wanted to be.This made the family think differently. They realized that talking about Mr. Zhang's care wasn't bad luck. Instead, it was a way to show respect and love for him. It was like doing 'xiao', which is a Chinese belief about respecting and caring for your elders.

They also remembered a Chinese saying, "Sickness enters at the mouth, but disaster comes out of it." This means that talking about problems can sometimes solve them. So, they decided to talk about Mr. Zhang's care, to make sure he would be comfortable and happy.In the end, Mr. Zhang's family knew they were doing the right thing. They were showing their love for him by planning his care. They were living their Chinese values of 'yi' and 'xiao'. This shows how important it is to plan ahead. We can enjoy today, while making sure our loved ones will be cared for in the future.

The Singh Family

The Singh family was known for being strong and never giving up. When Grandma Harjeet got very sick, they didn't want to think about getting her special comfort care. But then, they talked to their Granthi. A Granthi is someone who reads the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, at the Gurdwara, their place of worship.The Granthi told them that this special care, called palliative care, was not about giving up. Instead, it was about making sure Harjeet felt the best she could while she was sick. Hearing this made the family see things differently. It matched with their Sikh belief of 'Chardi Kala'. This means always staying hopeful, even when things are tough.Sikh people also believe in 'sewa', which means selfless service. They realized that by planning this special care for Harjeet, they were doing sewa. They were making sure she was comfortable and respected. They also started to include 'Simran', which means remembering God, in Harjeet's daily routine. This brought peace and comfort to Harjeet.In the end, the Singh family knew they were doing the best for Harjeet. They were living their Sikh values of Chardi Kala and sewa. This is the power of planning ahead. We can enjoy today, while knowing our loved ones will be well taken care of in the future.

The Al-Saadi Family

The Al-Saadi family, who came from Syria, loved each other very much. When Grandpa Jameel got very sick, they didn't know how to talk about the help he would need. Then, a family friend told them a story about 'tawakkul'. In their Islamic faith, this means to trust in God's plan.

After hearing this story, they saw that choosing special care for Jameel was the right thing to do. This care would make sure Jameel was comfortable and respected. It was not about giving up, but about giving Jameel the best care when he needed it. This decision fit with their beliefs.They talked to their Imam, a religious leader, for advice. He said this choice was kind and matched their Islamic faith. The Imam also talked about the shahada, a very important saying in their religion, which could bring peace to Jameel. When the time came, Jameel was surrounded by his family. He said the words of the shahada, and it made him feel peaceful. The family knew they had done their best for Jameel. This is what we can do for our loved ones when we plan ahead: we can live in the present, while making sure they are comfortable and respected in the future.

What Happens When You Are Really Sick?

When you are really sick you can receive palliative and end-of life care. Palliative and end-of-life care starts when you find out you have a serious illness. The earlier you start, the better. It continues until after you've passed away, helping your family cope with their loss.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are Goals of Care Designation?

A Goals of Care Designation (GCD) is a set of rules that helps your doctors know how to care for you based on your health, values, and wishes. You need a GCD if you don't want or can't have full emergency care. Your doctor or nurse practitioner can help you decide if you need one.

If you need a GCD, you'll talk with your doctor about your health, treatments, and what you want for your life. Your GCD can change if your health changes. It's talked about at places like hospitals, care homes, or during yearly check-ups. Always talk to your doctors or nurse practitioner if something changes or you have questions about your GCD.

If you have personal, religious or cultural questions related to goals of care designation you can discuss this with a trusted and knowledgeable person who understands your concerns and can help you communicate with your doctor or nurse practitioner.

What is a Personal Directive?

Anyone who is 18 years or older should have a personal directive. You should look at your personal directive and change it if your health or your wishes change.

A personal directive is different from a Goals of Care Designation. A Goals of Care Designation is a doctor's note about your healthcare, like what treatments you can have and where you'll get care. A personal directive is a legal paper that you write about what you want and what matters to you.If you don't have a personal directive and you can't talk for yourself, you won't get to pick who makes decisions for you. A doctor might ask your closest family member to decide for you. Or, someone might have to go to court to become your guardian, which can be slow and costly.
Think about a time when you might be too sick to tell doctors what you want. You can choose someone you trust to do that for you. This person is your agent. In Alberta, there's a special paper called a personal directive where you can write down your agent's name and what you want. You might write about what kind of medical care you want or where you want to live. This paper only comes into play if you can't make decisions because you're too sick or hurt.

How Do You Write a Personal Directive?

There are 3 ways to write your personal directive:
1. Use the free template from Alberta's Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee.
2. Write it yourself, without a template. Just remember to sign it, date it, and have another person sign it too.
3. Have a lawyer write it for you.

You should keep a copy of your personal directive in your Green Sleeve. Also, give a copy to your agent, your doctor, and anyone else who should know your wishes.

What is a Green Sleeve?

A Green Sleeve is like a special folder that keeps your important health papers safe. Inside it, you'll find a form called a personal directive. If you already wrote one, put yours in the Green Sleeve instead. There's also a form for Goals of Care Designation (GCD). Your doctor fills this in. If you think you might need a GCD, bring the form to your doctor to talk about it. If you already have a GCD, put it in the Green Sleeve. Another document, called the Advance Care Planning/Goals of Care Designation Tracking Record, is for your doctor to write down your conversations about your care plan and GCD.

Your Green Sleeve goes with you everywhere in the Alberta healthcare system. In an emergency, doctors can look in your Green Sleeve to understand what you want. Keep it up-to-date. Doctors in places like hospitals might ask if you have a Green Sleeve.

There are 2 ways to get a Green Sleeve:
1. Ask your doctor for one.
2. Order one online. They'll send up to 2 Green Sleeves to your home. If you need more, or if you have questions, you can email conversationsmatter@ahs.ca.

Keep your Green Sleeve where it's easy to find at home, like near your fridge. Emergency helpers, like paramedics, know to look there for important health information. Always take your Green Sleeve to the hospital or doctor appointments, and remember to bring it back home

What is Palliative and End-of-Life Care?

Palliative and end-of-life care is a special kind of medical help given to people, both adults and kids, who have a serious sickness that will make their life shorter. This care aims to make you feel good and have the best life you can have. A team of providers, including your family, caregivers, and your family doctor, work together to make health choices that are best for you​.

This type of care starts when you're told about your serious sickness and can continue all the way r you've passed away. It even includes helping your family after you're gone. It's not just for people who are very close to dying. It's also for people who have many months to live, with sicknesses that don't get better or may get worse over time.

The goal is to help you live your life with the best quality possible​. The help you get from palliative and end-of-life care depends on what you want and need. This might include helping you live and feel as good as possible, managing your pain, helping you understand what to expect from your sickness, and giving emotional and spiritual support. This type of care also supports your family and caregivers. They can get help understanding and managing the details of your care, breaks from being a caregiver, and support before and after a loved one passes away.

#EmbraceLifePlan Ahead Campaign Materials

Here’s some social media tools that you can use to spread the word.

ACP Day Events Across Canada

Click below to find out what organizations across the country are doing to celebrate ACP Day in Canada!

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Reflection Prompts

Click below and get the Advance Care Planning process started using our ACP Day 2023 reflection prompts!

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ACP Day: If Not You, Who? Campaign Kit

Download the complete If Not You, Who? campaign kit featuring posters, social media images, character portraits, scenarios and Canva templates! More material will be added soon – stay tuned!

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Advance Care Planning in Canada Bookmarks

Download the complete If Not You, Who? campaign kit featuring posters, social media images, character portraits, scenarios and Canva templates! More material will be added soon – stay tuned!


Advance Care Planning in Canada Wallet Cards

Download or purchase two-sided 2x3" French or English wallet cards to promote Advance Care Planning in Canada. Also available for purchase in bundles of 25 (emailinfo@advancecareplanning.ca for details)


SAY (Animated Video in English)​

How Well do You Know Me? Game


How Well do You Know Me? Game

How Well do You Know Me? Game


Advance Care Planning in Canada National 5 Steps postcard

Download the Advance Care Planning in Canada National 5 Steps postcard. (5×4″, 2-sided bilingual). Please note that the steps may vary depending on your region. Also available for purchase in bundles of 25 (email info@advancecareplanning.ca for details)


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