What is advance care planning?
Advance care planning is a process set in place that allows individuals to make plans and decisions about their future health and care. Advance care plans consider situations where an individual is not able to make decisions or communicate their wishes relating to their health and care choices. So, in anticipation of a deterioration of cognitive function, a clear plan is made to ensure their wishes and preferences are followed.
Advance care planning usually consists of 4 broad components:
- Preferences around the types of care or treatment
- Preferences in the place/location where they will be cared for
- Preferences on who they will appoint to be their proxy decision maker for health and financial decisions.
- Official documentation where an individual can detail legally binding advance decisions to refuse certain medical treatments.
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What are the differences between advance care planning and general care planning?
With advance care planning, the objective is to clearly state the future wishes of the individual being cared for, allowing them to make decisions about their type of care and medication. These decisions will then be adhered to even when the individual may not be able to communicate their wishes due to deterioration in their condition in the future.
It is written either by the individual or after discussion with and consent of the person receiving care while they still have the capacity to understand, consider and make these decisions. It can be written with support of care professionals, relatives and carers, but ultimately it must reflect and outline the wishes of the person in question, and it cannot be written if the individual does not have the capacity to make the statements in the advance care plan.
General care planning, however, focuses on current and continuing health. The main difference is that a general care plan can be written on behalf of an individual or in discussion with that individual, whereas an advance care plan cannot. Generally, a care plan is a way to monitor, track and report on the care that is being given to people in healthcare settings to ensure that person-centred care is being always provided.
As technology improves, the advent of digital care planning systems has made this process even better because using a digital care planning system means that care can be logged in real-time and in more detail, and a much higher level of data is available for audits, reports, and continuing improvement of care provision.
Read more here for the benefits of digital care planning in health and social care
What are the differences in the objectives of advance and general care planning?
The main objective of a general care plan is to provide care professionals with a plan of action and correct guidance as they care for an individual. A general care plan is usually a carers primary source of information when caring for a person and is used for the care of people either with or without the capacity to make their own decisions.
Care plans are ongoing and address the immediate needs of a person as well as the long-term needs by using all available resources to anticipate future care provision.
An advance care plan provides the carers with information on the individuals wishes and preferences which can be hugely beneficial if the person being cared for loses capacity to communicate, which can be common in individuals who suffer with dementia or degenerative long-term physical conditions.
Read more here for information on advance care planning for people with dementia
Where does advance care planning fit into general care planning?
Because care plans generally use all information available about a person to try and gain a greater understanding of what care is needed immediately but also what might be needed in the future as any long-term degenerative conditions cause either physical or cognitive decline, or both, advance care plans can play a vital role in long-term decision making.
Utilising any existing advance care plan can indicate preferences and wishes for a person receiving care and can determine best interests when they have lost the capacity to make decisions for themselves or express their preferences in care provision. For example, if a valid and applicable advance decision to refuse treatment or nomination of a Lasting Power of Attorney was made when a person still had capacity to do so, then these are binding and must be taken into consideration in care planning.
Developing person-centred care plans is one of the most important aspects of care provision. By utilising digital care planning systems, like Person Centred Software’s mCare, care homes can ensure that the best possible care is being provided and reported on in real-time.
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