Advance care planning
"My hopes and dreams in life haven’t changed and I make it a point to do meaningful things in my life just as anyone else would. If anyone reading this who has been diagnosed with a form of dementia or has a loved one who lives with this disease, I feel this is the first thing you need to know. We all live with a terminal condition. It’s called life. The same thing applies to people with dementia." - Roger, from Medicine Hat, Alberta. Roger lived with Alzheimer's disease.
Speak Up Canada can help you with more information and resources you can use to create your advance care plan. Download the advance care planning kit for your province.
We recommend learning more about what your end-of-life care may look like. It can help you, your family and your caregiver know what to expect and prepare accordingly.
Make an advance care plan
You may want to name a substitute decision-maker, someone who can speak for you if you couldn’t speak for yourself. It can mean the difference between the care you want and the care you might receive.
How to make your advance care plan:
- Think about what’s important to you.
- Learn about different medical procedures and what they can or can’t do.
- Decide on a substitute decision-maker – someone who is willing and able to speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself.
- Talk about your wishes with those closest to you.
- Record your wishes. The Alzheimer Society can help you find out if your province/territory has legal documents regarding planning for future health care.
Have a conversation with a person you trust to be your substitute decision-maker
Even if you choose not to write things down or draw up a legal document, have the conversation about your future health and personal care. Your verbal wishes can be just as valid.
By talking to your decision-maker now about how you want to be cared for later on, you will make those choices easier for your caregiver(s). You will also have the comfort of knowing that your future care will be in trusted hands.
Your decisions about your end-of-life care
At the Alzheimer Society, we know that you are an individual, first and foremost, and you have the same rights as everyone else.
- This includes the right to get the information and support you need to participate as fully as possible in decisions that affect you, including care decisions in palliative and end-of-life care.
- The Alzheimer Society respects this right – if you wish to pursue medical assistance in dying (MAiD), for example, we will provide you with the support and information you need so you can make a decision that's best for you.
Have questions or need support? Contact us at [email protected].
Legal and financial planning
Arranging a Power of Attorney
There will come a time when you can no longer make financial choices for yourself and other decisions, like signing legal papers.
At this time, family, caregivers or healthcare providers will need to make decisions for you, so it's important to talk to them and let them know your wishes. The people you name to act on your behalf need to know your wishes in order to honour and act on them.
Talk to your family and make sure your money matters will be in the hands of someone you trust. Arrange for a Power of Attorney authorizing someone to legally make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able. Talk to a lawyer about naming someone to look after your financial interests.
Making a will and other important documents
As soon as possible, make a list of the important documents that you will need to have in place. Reviewing the list with your family members will help your caregiver and other family members be aware of your wishes.
The names of these documents vary from province to province, and territory to territory, but they include:
- A Will that states how your property should be divided after your death
- A document that names a substitute decision-maker who can make decisions about financial and legal matters on your behalf when you are no longer able
- A document that names a substitute decision-maker for future healthcare decisions
- A "living Will" or "advance directive" that describes your wishes for healthcare and end-of-life care in the future; this can help your family make difficult decisions that may arise during the course of the disease when you are no longer able to make these decisions for yourself.
Contact a lawyer or your closest Alzheimer Society for specific information about the legal requirements in your province or territory.
Collect all relevant documents
In addition to the above, gather the following legal and financial documents and information, and let a trusted adviser and family member know where they are stored:
- Bank accounts,
- Credit cards,
- Loans and mortgages,
- Insurance policies (life, auto, home, disability),
- Pension plans and RRSPs,
- Real estate, home, business, car ownership, and
- Prepaid funeral arrangements and/or cemetery plot.
Important facts to know about differences across provinces and territories
Each province or territory in Canada can have different guidelines for power of attorney, and other legal matters.
Here are some key facts to know compiled from the Government of Canada's webpage “What every older Canadian should know about: Powers of attorney (for financial matters and property) and joint bank accounts.”
- “The names and requirements for the different types of powers of attorney that deal with finances and property will vary depending on the province or territory where you live.”
- “Each province and territory has its own laws relating to powers of attorney. You need to follow the law in the province or territory where you live.”
- For instance, the minimum legal age for an attorney varies according to the province or territory where you live. So does the attorney's right to be paid or not. And the precise legal responsibilities of the attorney vary across province and territory, too.
- “If you use a power of attorney kit or forms from a website to set up your power of attorney, you need to be sure the form is signed in compliance with the law in your province or territory.”
- “If you move or will need to use the power of attorney in another province, territory, or country, get legal advice to be sure the document will be recognized. It may be necessary for you to make a new document for certain assets.”
- “If you become incapable of managing your own finances and property, and you do not have a power of attorney or joint bank account, each province and territory has laws that allow someone else to get legal authority to manage your finances for you.”
Note: If you are looking for advance planning tools customized by province and territory, the website advancecareplanning.ca can help. This website is run by a registered charity called the Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Association. Just go to advancecareplanning.ca/my-plan and select your province or territory to start. Other provincial and territorial resources are available on their “Across Canada” page.
Work, retirement and volunteer activities
If you are still working, consider talking to your employer about dementia and your symptoms. Cutting down on your hours and responsibilities may be an option. Or you may have to stop working. If you own your own business, you will want to plan for its future.
Volunteering may provide an opportunity for you to continue using your skills and participating in activities that you have always enjoyed.
For now, you may need little or no help with daily living. As dementia progresses, you will find that you need help with activities such as cooking, housekeeping, shopping and transportation. Talk to family members and friends to see who would be able to help you with these tasks.
Your local Alzheimer Society can provide information and referrals to community and social services available in your area.
These may include:
- Community support services like Meals on Wheels, adult day programs and volunteer visits,
- Live-in companions and other privately hired home helpers,
- Assisted-living homes,
- Supportive housing and
- Retirement and long-term care homes.
More useful links and resources
Your Conversation Starter Guide. Created by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, this free guide can help you have conversations with the important people in your life about your – or their – wishes for care through the end of life. Available in English, Spanish or Chinese.
Advance Care Planning (ACP). This initiative focuses on supporting Canadians with their advance care planning. Their resources can help you through the steps of advance care planning to record such things as wishes, information about your substitute decision-maker(s) and information about other important documents.
What every older Canadian should know about: Powers of attorney (for financial matters and property) and joint bank accounts. This informative Government of Canada webpage provides information about some things to consider in advance planning.
Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE). According to its mission statement, ACE is committed to upholding the rights of low-income seniors. Its purpose is to improve the quality of life of seniors by providing legal services which include direct client assistance, public legal education, law reform, community development and community organizing.
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA). CHPCA is the voice for quality end-of-life/hospice palliative care in Canada. Their website includes directory of services that can point you toward palliative care services near you.
Dying with Dignity Canada. Through advocacy, public education and personal support, it is Dying With Dignity Canada's mission to ensure Canadians have access to quality end-of-life choice and care. Their website includes resources on advance care planning, palliative care and medical assistance in dying (MAiD).
Ready, Set, Plan – for care partner absence. As a caregiver, use this form to help you plan ahead for times where you may not be available to support the person you’re caring for. Note that while this form is from the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, anyone across Canada can use it.
Finances and Dementia – Advice for the Journey. IG Wealth Management, April 2021. This one-hour webinar can help you navigate through the unique financial challenges that face caregivers and people living with dementia alike.