You are making this serious ill plan based on your current age, health and values. If things change as you age or develop a new health problem, you can always update your plan in your future.
Once you have your ‘Dear Doctor’ letter, you now have a script to follow if you were to get sick and have to go to hospital. The letter will be helpful in future situations when talking to an ER or ICU doctor. But it is important to discuss your plan beforehand in case you are too sick to discuss it with doctors in the future. Your substitute decision-maker will need to have a copy (which is why we provide a Dear SDM Letter). We also recommend that you take your plan to your family doctor (Dear Doctor Letter). Your plan will help inform a ‘Goals of Care Designation Form’ in Alberta (or your province’s equivalent).
That’s ok. It is not likely that it will be “your family doctor” that treats you when you are seriously ill. It will be some other doctor working in ER or ICU. But these doctors treating you will also appreciate the insights in your plan. The plan is not only important to doctors, but also to you. This plan will help you clarify what your values and preferences are and make it easy to share them with your family and your substitute decision-maker.
It’s your life (and death). Your wishes are more important than theirs. But, you will want to take into consideration their wishes and feelings too. It is far better to address disagreements while you are alive and well than leave it for them to figure out when you are too sick to speak for yourself. If you need professional help coaching you or guiding you so you all ‘get on the same page’, we provide a Consult a Doctor service to help you.
We have a specific module in the new Plan Well Guide that talks about what a substitute decision-maker does and how to choose one.
You can hire a professional. For a fee, you can contract a ‘Trust Advisor’ or other planning professional that can take on this responsibility. If you don’t delegate anyone to represent you and you have no family, when you become incapacitated, the government will appoint a guardian. But this will take time and money so it is better to get this done in advance.
We talk about in the planning process how you will likely want to change your plan, as you age or as your health changes. With your account, you can log back in at any time and update your plan and recreate your “Dear Doctor” and “Dear SDM” letters.
We understand how this can be difficult. You can’t predict what serious illness you will contract or when or what will happen to you. That’s why we try and educate you on the process of serious illness decision-making and try and coach you on ‘being in control’ of the part that you can control. That is, your authentic values and informed treatment preferences. These are integral to future decisions that will be made about your medical care when you are seriously ill. You may not be able to control many things about your future serious illness, but you can control how ready you (or your SDM) are to share your values and preferences.