Why it's good to talk about care

It's never too soon to think about what you'd like to happen if you get ill, or your health condition changes. Having conversations with the people close to you helps them too.

There are situations where it’s more important to make plans, such as after being diagnosed with certain health conditions. But you don’t have to be unwell to start talking about your health and care.

Your family or close friends may need to help make decisions about your treatment and care if you're very ill. So it's important to talk about how you'd like to be cared for with the people close to you in advance.

Thinking ahead helps you have better conversations about your care with your doctor, nurse or care worker.

What matters to you might be different if things change for you. If that happens, you can update any information you’ve given to your care team.

How to talk about your care

When you’re getting ready to talk about your care, there are a few things it can help to think about.

People to talk to

Choose who you would like to have these conversations with. Talking with those close to you is a good idea. You could talk to:

  • your partner
  • family members
  • your carer
  • friends
  • your faith or community leader
  • anyone with welfare attorney for you

You could also talk to your care team, for example:

  • your GP
  • nurse
  • consultant
  • care worker
  • support worker

Getting ready to talk

There are some things you might want to do or find out about before you start having care planning conversations. You might choose to:

  • find out more about your health condition
  • find out about the services and support that can help you
  • talk with your GP, nurse or care worker about making a future health and care plan – in Scotland this is called Anticipatory Care Planning (ACP)
  • make an appointment with your GP or wait for your next check-up with the hospital to ask about planning your care
  • speak to your care team about your health conditions and any questions or worries you have

It might help to think about the most important things you want those close to you, and your care team, to know about you and what you would like to happen. If it helps, write down 2 or 3 things you want to say or ask.

Places to talk

There’s no one way to have these conversations.

Some people prefer to be at home. You could talk over the phone, or on a video call.

You might choose to talk about your care with family members while your doctor, nurse or care worker is present. For example, as part of a planned appointment. The important thing is that you feel comfortable and able to talk about what matters to you.

Starting to talk

For many people, the hardest part of talking about care is starting the first conversation. It can also be difficult to know what things are important to cover. There are many ways to get a conversation started.

Talking about your own care

Some ways you could start are:

  • 'Can we have a chat about something important?'
  • 'I've been thinking about my health and what help I might need in future – can we talk about it?'
  • 'I’ve been thinking about what might happen with my health and it would really help to hear what you think about support and care we might need.'
  • 'I'm worried about my care in the future, can we talk about what we'll do if my health changes?'

Talking about someone else’s care

It can be more difficult to start talking about someone else’s care. You could say things like:

  • 'Can we have a chat about something important?'
  • 'It's important for me to know how you'd like to be cared for in the future, can we talk about that?'
  • 'It would really help if we can talk about any treatment or care that you'd not want.'
  • 'I’ve been thinking about what might happen if you get more unwell or seriously ill, do you have any thoughts about what you'd like to happen?'

Care at home or in hospital

When talking about your care, you can think about whether you’d like to be cared for at home, in your care home, or in hospital if you become unwell.

Where and how can I be cared for?

It's important for the people close to you, your care team, and emergency services to know what to do if you are very unwell. Your anticipatory care plan is used to record details about where you would like to be cared for. Information about any specific emergency treatment or care for you can be added to your plan too.

There are some things you can do to make talking about care easier.

Do

  • be patient – some people need more time to think about their care than others
  • have several conversations – people often have more than one
  • remember you can change your mind if things change for you – care plans are updated if needed

Further information about care planning

Anticipatory Care Planning (ACP) is where you talk about what matters most when making plans for your care in the future. You can talk about this with those close to you, and your doctor, nurse or care worker. Your care team want to know what's important when they're planning treatment and care with you.

Read further information about Anticipatory Care Planning

Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Your doctor or nurse will talk about CPR if they think this decision is important for you. You can find out more about what CPR means for you by asking them.

Decisions about CPR

Making an advance directive is another way to make sure that treatments you do not want are written down. This can be used to guide the care team making decisions about your care if you are not able to speak for yourself.

Read further information about advance directives

There may be financial or legal issues you’d like to talk about, like making a will.

You can choose people close to you to make certain decisions about your health and care if you're not able to do it yourself. There's a legal document called a Power of Attorney for this.

Read further information about legal and practical issues