Making an advance statement
Writing an advance statement allows you to control some of your end of life care by setting out what’s important to you before you lose capacity to communicate decisions.
What is an advanced statement?
If there comes a time when you don’t have the capacity to make decisions, an advance statement can indicate what’s important to you; it allows you to record your wishes, feelings, beliefs and values for when you need medical treatment.
This is different to an advance decision – we’ve explained the differences in a quick guide here.
Start writing your advance statement
If an advance statement is written down, it becomes a permanent record of your preferences. When people involved in your care understand what you want, it’ll be easier for them to follow your wishes.
It’s a solution to keep your preferences out in the open. All you need is a spare 10 minutes, a pen and paper. You don’t need a solicitor or any professional help, just your own reflections and decisions.
Here we break down the elements of an advance statement, so you can tackle each section one by one.
Food can be a complicated factor in the dying process. You might think that, if you’re on your last legs, you’d rather not eat ‘hospital food’. But things to consider here include things like:
Are you a lifelong vegetarian? If so, it’s likely you’ll want to stick to your principles even if you no longer had the mental capacity to voice it.
Are you planning on living in residential care and want carers to know what you don’t like? Perhaps you can’t stand the taste of fish. Jot it down in this section.
You can also outline what you’d want to happen if you begin to struggle eating and swallowing. This means you could write down a preference for drip feeding or not, for example.
Religious or spiritual views
If you practice a religion you’ll likely want to keep up with it once you begin to decline. In this section you can state whether or not you’d like to carry on with rituals and ceremonies, including any last rites preferences.
You can also put down here whether you’re into any secular or more spiritual practices. This might include a death doula – these are people who attend to the more introspective and private side of death, as well as any personal guidance.
Information about your daily routine
In this section, you can outline what should be taken into consideration during the day. Note down any vital information about the kinds of medicine you take and when. Think about how often you have a shower or bath, and whether you have a preference between the two.
You could even make a note of what clothes you prefer to wear, if you would like help with makeup and nails, or the odd hair trim.
Any fears you have around treatment or care
Do you hate needles, and can’t bear the thought of a catheter? Write it down here, and it’s possible that your family and medical team will keep it in mind.
If you want to refuse treatment, such as life support or pain management, you can make it legally binding in an advance decision, which is a different thing. You should still mention it in your advance statement, so your preference is well-known.
Your preference over where you would like to be cared for
Here you can state whether you would like to spend your last days at home, in a hospice or in a hospital. While it might not be possible for your family or medical team to take into consideration all requests, depending on the nature of your illness or frailty, you can still outline where preferably you want to die.
Palliative care can be arranged in each place, so note down whether you would like special end of life care, too.
Your last few days
In this section, you should jot down any preferences you have for your very last days and hours.
It’s not something we’re all really into thinking about, but it might be worthwhile reflecting on who you want to be cared for by and who you would like to be with you.
Letting other people know about your advance statement
You should keep in mind that your advance statement can be used to help medical professionals make decisions about your treatment. It should also be taken into account when someone acts in your “best interests”.
You could think about making a Lasting Power of Attorney. This is a formal procedure to allow someone to make decisions on your behalf when you no longer can. You can only appoint one person, so you’ll need to think about that carefully.
Is an advance statement legally binding?
While an advance statement is not legally binding, it does have legal standing when taken together with an advance decision, or when someone is acting in your ‘best interests’. Acting in someone’s ‘best interests’ is something that is respected by GPs and medical professionals. Have your say.
Find out more
Not everyone will be familiar with advance statements, and the decisions might seem daunting or not something you’ve thought about before. At DEATH.io we have articles that explain some of the more unfamiliar terms.
If you’re wondering what losing mental capacity might mean, and a few of the solutions that can help you manage health and finance after you can’t make decisions as easily as you once could, read our article here.
We take a look at what Lasting Power of Attorney can mean within the context of probate.
We explain the differences between advance decisions and advance statements in our article here.
Learn about end of life care in a hospice, at home and in hospitals.