HQSC - Advance Care Planning. Photo by Mark Coote/markcoote.com

Everyone needs an advance care plan

Any time is a good time to think about and share what’s important to you about your future health care.

An advance care plan includes what is meaningful to you, such as what you enjoy doing, the important people in your life, your values and the ways you would like those caring for you to look after your spiritual and emotional needs.

Advance care planning focuses on understanding what is important now and in the future. It helps you, the important people in your life and your health care team plan for your end-of-life care.

Manager of the national advance care planning programme, Leigh Manson, says many families don’t talk about death and dying until a loved one is very unwell or unable to communicate.

“The process of advance care planning helps you understand what the future might hold, and to say what health care you would or would not want. This makes it much easier for everyone to know what you want – especially if you can no longer speak for yourself.

“This becomes even more important if you are getting older, have some health problems, have been diagnosed with a disease or illness, or simply have strong views about what you do and don’t want.

“Your advance care plan can also cover what sort of funeral you would like, whether you want to donate your organs, whether you want to be buried or cremated, where your important papers are and whether you have in place an enduring power of attorney or advance directive.

“Many people talk about their advance care plan as a gift to their whānau, because it can be a comfort for your loved ones in times of crisis to know what you want.’

The important first steps are thinking and talking about:

  • What is important to you and gives your life meaning?
  • Are there any treatments or types of care that you would or wouldn’t want?
  • Who would you want to make decisions on your behalf if you weren’t able to?
  • If there was a choice, how and where would you like to spend your last days?

“Once you have thought through some of the issues, it’s a good idea to talk about them. The value of advance care planning is in the conversations and the shared understanding that is developed, so think about who it would be good to share your thoughts with.

“After that, it is helpful to write the key points down in a plan so you can share your wishes with others.”

The Health Quality & Safety Commission website has information and resources to help you think about, talk about and plan for your or a loved one’s future care, including an advance care plan and guide.

Ms Manson says it’s also a good idea to review your advance care plan regularly to make sure nothing has changed for you.

About Health Quality Safety Commission New Zealand

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Working with clinicians, providers and consumers to improve health and disability support services.

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