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Advance care planning vs. living wills: What is the difference?

The terms advanced care planning and living wills are used interchangeably. But in British Columbia, and indeed in all of Canada, living wills is an American-coined term and has no legal status in Canada. That doesn't mean to say Canadians cannot make plans in the event they are not able to communicate their wishes regarding end-of-life care.

Such a document in Canada is often referred to as an advance care directive, which can be a wish or wishes listed in a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. An advance care planning directive is much more involved than a living will. Life happens and unlike living wills, which reflect an individual's desires at the time they're signed, an advanced care planning directive is more than a single document and can be modified if a person's wishes change over time.

An advance care document opens the lines of communication between family members. The document can come alive with very detailed instructions on how individuals would like to be cared for at the end of their lives, giving their loved ones the confidence they are acting on behalf of them according to their wishes -- and acting without guilt. It is not only prudent for British Columbia residents to have their wishes written down, but also important to talk about them.

It's also a good idea for people to talk to their lawyers about advance care planning and how it differs from living wills. A British Columbia lawyer experienced in wills and estate law can guide residents when it comes to their wishes for their care in case they become unable to personally communicate them. He or she can also explain the legalities in British Columbia of the Power of Attorney for Personal Care appointed to make decisions when an individual can't do so.

Source: advancecareplanning.ca, "Advance care planning and living wills: what's the difference", Accessed on Aug. 11, 2017

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