Advance statement healthcare needs
All, Legals

What is an Advance Statement? And why would I need one?

It may never happen. But what if you are unable to communicate or make decisions for yourself about your healthcare and everyday needs, such as looking after your property or pet?

This guide answers the  most frequently asked questions around this subject and what you can do to plan for this possibility.

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone concerned about their daily care and welfare needs, in the event they are unable to make these decisions for themselves 
  • Anyone curious as to whether you can leave legally-binding healthcare instructions for others to follow 

Reading time:

 3 mins


What is an Advance Statement?

An Advance Statement allows you to leave instructions about your preferences for your healthcare and everyday needs, in the event that you are unable to communicate and make decisions because you lack mental capacity.

Advance Statement forms are freely available from healthcare institutions, or you can create your own.

Often people who are terminally ill prepare in advance in this way, but everyone should think about writing an Advance Statement before it's too late.  

Once done, it's a good idea to check your statement periodically as your preferences and circumstances, may change.

Why do I need an Advance Statement?

An Advance Statement lets relatives and carers know the following, in the event you no longer have the mental capacity to make decisions for yourself.

  • the day-to-day things you need taking care of
  • your healthcare and wellbeing needs, and
  • preferences for your living arrangements, in case you need to be moved

Is an Advance Statement the same as an Advance Decision?

No.  An Advance Statement is not the same as an Advance Decision.  

An Advance Statement lets you set down your preferences  for how you would like to be cared for when you no longer have the mental capacity to make decisions for yourself.

An Advance Decision is your decision to refuse types of life-sustaining treatment, even if it means you might die.  For more information on an Advance Decision, click here.

Advance Statement directions for your care and daily needs

You can include any aspect of your  healthcare and daily needs in an Advance Statement, but we suggest you consider the following as a minimum:

  • Where you would like to be cared for, e.g. at home (whether at all costs or only under certain conditions)
  • Key people you would like involved in your care, which may include specific family members or friends
  • Key people you would like to care for your pets
  • Your preference for a bath or shower
  • Who you would like to wash and dress you
  • Who you would like to take care of your personal hygiene needs
  • What you would like to be dressed in
  • Any foods you would like or not like to eat (include any food allergies or food intolerances)
  • Who you would and would not want to visit you
  • How you wish each day to be planned, e.g. if you would like to be taken outside regularly
  • Your views and religious beliefs, and how they might impact on the above points
  • Your funeral wishes
  • Download our free Funeral Wishes Planner.  You record your wishes in the Planner as it takes you step-by-step through your funeral options.  This lets loved ones know what you would like to happen and saves them from the added upset of not knowing whether they have made the right decisions.

Is an Advance Statement legally binding?

No.  An Advance Statement is not legally binding, but anyone responsible or involved in your care should take your daily needs and healthcare wishes into account where possible.

What's the difference between an Advance Statement and a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney?

An Advance Statement outlines your daily needs and healthcare wishes when you lose the ability to act and think for yourself.

A Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) enables you to appoint one or more people you trust to make daily care and healthcare decisions on your behalf, and decisions on your living arrangements,  when you no longer have the mental capacity to do so.  

The person or people you appoint as your 'attorney' do not have to be a relative or spouse.  

Do I need an Advance Statement if I have a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney?

An Advance Statement is not legally binding, but it's better to have one than nothing at all.

A Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)  is a legal document.  It will give you peace of mind that you have someone who can deal with your health and welfare matters when you have reached the point where you are no longer capable of making those decisions yourself.  It also means that the power is taken away from healthcare professionals and from social workers who may step in to make decisions on your living arrangements.

Useful RESOURCES

Learn more about the legality of an Advance Decision document to refuse life-sustaining treatment.

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Advance Decision - Living Will - Do not resuscitate
All, Legals

What is an Advance Decision document?

Whatever your current state of health, there may come a time when you are unable to make independent decisions about your medical treatment and welfare or express yourself clearly.  

This article looks at how you can plan for that eventuality, and considers some of the questions you may have.

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone who wants to refuse types of life-saving medical treatment
  • Anyone wants to know whether refusing types of end-of-life treatment is legal
  • Anyone who wants to know if they need an Advance Decision and a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney

Reading time:

 3 mins


What is an Advance Decision document?

An Advance Decision (otherwise referred to as an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment ADRT or Living Will) allows you to make known what medical interventions and treatments you would not want to receive  in the event that you are unable to communicate or make decisions because you lack mental capacity - even if this results in your death.

Advance Decision forms are freely available from healthcare institutions and websites (see Useful Resources below).  

If you are planning well ahead, it's a good idea to check this document periodically as your views on what your end-of-life treatment should look like, and its impact on your circumstances, may change.

Consult a healthcare practitioner


You could also draw up an Advance Decision yourself, but you may want to consult your doctor and a solicitor to ensure you haven't overlooked something vitally important and that your wishes are clearly understood.  

Why do I need an Advance Decision document?

An Advance Decision is a legal method for ensuring that your end-of-life care proceeds precisely as you want it to, even if you no longer have the mental capacity to make decisions about your treatment.  

Is an Advance Decision document the same as an Advance Statement?

No.  An Advance Decision is not the same as an Advance Statement.  

An Advance Decision is your decision to refuse types of life-sustaining treatment, even if it means you might die.

An Advance Statement lets you set down your preferences  for how you would like to be cared for when you no longer have the mental capacity to make decisions for yourself.

Advance Decision directions for your treatment

You need to be very clear about all the circumstances in which you wish to refuse treatment. That's why it's prudent to talk through possible scenarios and options with your doctor.  For example, if your breathing stops, you can ask not to be resuscitated, but your decision may depend upon which medical conditions you are suffering at the time. 

It's important to understand that an Advance Decision cannot be used to demand that your life be ended, even if your suffering is unbearable.  Assisted dying is illegal in the UK.

Is an Advance Decision document legally binding?

Everyone involved in your care is legally bound by the Advance Decision, providing it:

The equivalent term for an Advance Decision in Scotland is known as an Advance Directive, and in Northern Ireland there are slightly different arrangements that cover the same situation.

The document will need to be signed and dated by you while you are still mentally capable and signed and dated by an adult witness who is also deemed mentally capable.

You can withdraw or change an Advance Decision at any time, providing you still have the capacity to do so.

Appointing an Advance Decision 'agent'

An 'agent' is someone who will act in accordance with your wishes.  You will need to appoint a primary and also a secondary agent if the first person cannot be reached.  This person should be aged 18 or over (16 or over in Scotland).  

You should make them aware what your wishes are and confirm that they are fully accepting of them to avoid any issues later on.  Your agent could be your next of kin, doctor, or healthcare practitioner.  If you are under the care of a hospice, request a copy of their Advance Decision (or equivalent) document and ask them for help in completing it, if you need to.

What's the difference between an Advance Decision document and a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney?

An Advance Decision document outlines in detail the end-of-life treatment choices you have made for yourself, which may specify a variety of situations.

A Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) enables you to appoint one or more people you trust ("attorney") to make decisions for you and act in your best interests for your daily care and healthcare needs when you no longer have the capacity to do that for yourself.

Crucially, an LPA cannot override the legality of an Advance Decision.  If a decision needs to be made about something that's not included in your Advance Decision, then your attorney will still be able to make decisions on your behalf.

Do I need an Advance Decision document if I have a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney?

Having both an Advance Decision document and a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney is sensible because they fulfil different purposes.  

An Advance Decision is much more comprehensive than a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney.  An Advance Decision document provides your health and welfare attorney with something in writing that they can use if they need to act on your behalf. 

Useful RESOURCES

Advance Decision templates are available from  hospices and other healthcare institutions, or you can download your free Advance Decision template from Compassion In Dying.

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