Mary Anne Huggins, MD, CCFP, DABHPC, Palliative Care Services, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network; Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.
Laura Brooks, BScN, MScN, ACNP, Palliative Care Services, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, ON.
Discussing end-of-life care with older patients is very important, as it ensures their preferences are known and they retain control over their care decisions even when they may no longer be actively involved in them. Unfortunately, these discussions do not always occur, and when they do occur, they are not always done well. There are patient and physician barriers to advanced care planning. Physicians may lack the skills necessary to accomplish the task of making decisions for future care. In this article we discuss advanced care planning, its importance as well as related challenges and barriers. We then outline a practical approach to advanced care planning for older adults.
Key words: end-of-life care, advance directives, advanced care planning, living wills, substitute decision-maker.