Advance decision (Living wills)

This page explains different aspects of planning ahead when you have dementia ('advance care planning').

For many people with dementia, there will come a time when you aren’t able to make decisions for yourself, such as choices about your care and treatment. This ability to make these decisions is known as ‘mental capacity’. There are a number of things you can do now to make sure your wishes are taken into account if you lack mental capacity in the future. These are often referred to collectively as ‘advance care planning’ or planning ahead.

Advance decisions and advance statements are two ways of planning ahead. They ensure that your wishes about your care and treatment are taken into account in the future. They can ensure that you are not given treatment that you do not wish to receive, or that your family have power to act on your behalf if you wish them to. This page explains how advance decisions and advance statements work, and what they can and cannot do. It also provides practical advice and a form to help you to draft an advance decision.

Advance decisions and advance statements are just one aspect of planning ahead. You might also want to give someone ‘power of attorney’, so they can make decisions on your behalf, or to think about putting your finances in order and making or updating a will.

The information provided is for people living in England and Wales. It is not intended for those living in Northern Ireland, where the laws about advance decisions do not apply. Read our information on advance planning in Northern Ireland.

Mental capacity

Get more information on mental capacity, including how it is assessed.

Mental Capacity Act

What is an advance decision?

An advance decision allows you to decide now about specific treatments that you do not want to receive in the future. Its purpose is to ensure that, if you are not able to make decisions at the time, you are not forced to receive treatment that you would not want.

Treatment that you can refuse includes life-sustaining treatment. For example, some people may make an advance decision to refuse a blood transfusion for religious or spiritual reasons. You can do this even if it will hasten your own death.

Advance decisions are legally binding as long as they meet certain conditions. This means that they must be followed by doctors and other medical professionals. 'Will the doctor have to follow my advance decision?' details these requirements so that you can be sure that any advance decision you make will be valid.

Lasting power of attorney

Find out more about Lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) in England and Wales.

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