Life happens … Be ready

Making Advance Care Planning Part of Life Planning

By Pamela Warkentin, BC Centre for Palliative Care

When it comes to future health care, 78% of British Columbians think it’s important to talk about what matters to them, but fewer than half have talked to their family about it. Advance Care Planning Day on April 16 aims to raise awareness and normalize these conversations. According to the BC Centre for Palliative Care, planning for future health care should be part of life planning, just like financial planning, retirement planning, or saving for education. 

Life happens to all of us – some of it’s good and some, not so much. When life happens, your health can change in an instant, and thinking ahead about what matters most to you about your health care can make a world of difference to your comfort.

April 16 is Advance Care Planning Day in Canada, and it’s the perfect opportunity to start a conversation about your values, beliefs and wishes.

“Starting ‘what if…’ conversations isn’t easy,” says Jas Cheema, who has supported this work for several years now.  “I did ACP work at a health authority and have seen how hard it is for families to decide what to do when a loved one hasn’t discussed their wishes.”

“Talking about who would make decisions for you and what’s important to you in the face of a health emergency is. incredibly important. Conversations now mean that when the time comes, family members are on the same page, and you can be confident they know your wishes.”

Life happens … Be ready! 

Advance Care Planning Day aims to raise awareness and normalize conversations about future health care. Just like estate planning or financial planning, advance care planning (ACP) for future care is an important pillar in overall life planning. And just like financial planning, the best time to start is now, before you need it.

A common misperception about ACP is that it’s only for people coming to the end of their lives who need someone to make decisions for them.

The truth is, advance care planning can benefit everyone, regardless of age or health. ACP can come into play if you’re in a car accident and lose consciousness or are under anesthetic for surgery. Knowing who will speak for you in these situations, and knowing that they’re aware of your wishes is a win-win for you, your family and the medical team.

Think, Talk, Plan: Advance Care Planning is for everyone

When it comes to advance care planning, the BC Centre for Palliative Care has easy-to-use resources to help.

Making advance care planning resources more accessible to British Columbians, ACP resources have been culturally adapted and translated into Punjabi, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese to serve some of the largest cultural groups in the province. Work is underway to adapt and translate the resources into Hindi.

Tips to get started: 

  • Consider individual preferences: some may like to include a large group, others to keep it one-on-one.
  • You won’t cover everything at once. Think of it as an ongoing conversation, and it’s okay to take it in small doses.
  • Take some time to clarify your own thoughts before opening the conversation. You may not have all the answers, but it gives you a place to start.
  • Think small, too. While you’re considering the big questions, don’t forget to think about what’s good about the everyday. Small things that we have control over are valuable and worth noting.

Quick facts: 

  • Advance care planning is a way for you to: think about and share your values, beliefs and wishes support informed health-care decision making can help you get care that’s right for you
  • 76%* of British Columbians agree it is important to talk about what matters for their future health care, but only…
  • 33% have heard of Advance Care Planning
  • 48% have talked with family
  • 14% have talked with a health-care provider
  • 28% have recorded their wishes
  • People who have done Advance Care Planning have higher satisfaction with their care and better quality of life.

* According to a 2020 public poll commissioned by BC Centre for Palliative Care

The BC Centre for Palliative Care (, a provincial non-profit created by the Ministry of Health to accelerate improvement in palliative care in BC, is at the forefront of championing advance care planning for every adult in British Columbia. For questions and inquiries, contact