What is an advance statement?
An advance statement is a way for you to explain the things that matter to you about your care, in case you lose the ability to make your own decisions – in other words, if you lose mental capacity.
People with a terminal illness or life-limiting condition often prepare an advance statement, but you don’t have to be nearing the end of life to make one. For example, it’s a good idea to make one if you’re beginning to find it difficult to look after yourself.
An advance statement is not a legally binding document, but anyone involved should take it into account when making decisions about your care.
Why make one?
An advance statement means everyone involved in your care knows what’s important to you.
If you lose mental capacity, professionals who are looking after you, such as a doctor or social worker, will make decisions on your behalf. If they know your wishes, they can take these into account when making their decisions.
Some people find producing an advance statement a good way to start a conversation with loved ones about their end of life wishes. It also means the people close to you don’t have to second guess what you would have wanted. And you may also feel more in control over what's happening.
What can an advance statement include?
There are no set rules for what you can include in your statement. It can cover anything that matters to you about your life, health or care, such as:
- where you’d like to be cared for – for example, at home, in a care home or in hospital – and where you would prefer to die
- who should be consulted about your care
- any religious beliefs and values that you’d like reflected in your care
- who you prefer to visit you
- any dietary preferences or requirements
- whether you prefer baths or showers
- how you like to dress
- what you enjoy doing, such as the type of music you like or TV programs you watch
- arrangements for any pets
- what you’d like to happen to your body after your death – for example, if you want to donate your organs or your body to medical science.
An advance statement can state who should be consulted about decisions made on your behalf. But that doesn't mean that a health or care professional has to carry out what that person says. The only way to give another person the legal power to make such decisions is by creating a Lasting Power of Attorney for health and welfare.
Advance statements vs advance decisions: what is the difference?
An advance statement does not include your preferences for medical treatment, such as whether you want medics to attempt resuscitation. You need to make an advance decision (often called a living will) for this.
Another important difference is that an advance statement is not legally binding, whereas an advance decision is. However, anyone involved in your care must take your advance statement into account when planning your care.
How do I make an advance statement?
There is no specific form for an advance statement. You don’t even have to write your wishes down – you can just tell family, carers or health professionals. But it's a good idea to put it in writing, so that everyone involved in your care can be clear about how you’d like to be cared for. You may find some sample forms online (this NHS form, for example) or you can create your own simple document.
You don’t need to sign your advance statement or have it witnessed. But it’s better if it is signed and dated so people can be confident that it represents your wishes. It should also include your name, date of birth and address.
How can I let people know about my advance statement?
To ensure your advance statement is followed, it’s important to let the relevant people know about it. Once you’ve made your statement, follow these steps to make sure it will be used, if needed.
- Discuss it with family or friends, so they’re aware of it and understand what’s important to you.
- Keep a copy for yourself, and let the relevant people know where you keep it.
- Give a copy to anyone involved in your care, such as your GP or medical team. They can keep it with your medical notes.
- Ask your GP if they can create an electronic record of your plan so that other medical staff can access it in an emergency. This depends on where you live.
- Include details of your statement in a scheme such as the Lions Club’s Message in a Bottle scheme.
- Give a copy to your loved ones and anyone you’ve appointed to speak on your behalf, such as someone who has Lasting Power of Attorney for you.
Planning ahead for the final stages of life makes it more likely you’ll be cared for in the way that you’d prefer.
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