Talking about death and dying is hard. Most of us will not die suddenly. We all, in theory, have lots of time to think, talk and plan for our future and end-of-life care. Yet for most families this conversation does not happen or, if it does, then only when someone is very unwell. At this stage, for many it is too late to ensure that they are doing the things they that want to or value in a place where they want to be.
This is why an advance care plan is so important. It includes what is meaningful to you, such as people and pets, your values and the ways you would like those caring for you to look after your spiritual and emotional needs.
Respectful end-of-life care is all about honoring what matters most to people at the end of life. Advance care planning helps you, the important people in your life and your health care team plan for your end-of-life care. This sort of planning can also help you understand what the future might hold, and to say what health care you would or would not want to receive. This makes it much easier for everyone to know what you want, especially if you are in a position where you can no longer speak for yourself.
By starting this process early, people have the opportunity to make informed decisions about their future care. It also gives health care professionals time to make recommendations that relate to people’s specific needs in relation to what matters most to the individual. Ensuring that someone can begin their end of life journey in the way that they want to makes it a less stressful and distressing experience for both the patient, their loved ones, but also the health care professions involved in their care. No time is wasted deliberating over decisions for care as this has already been decided on, meaning that the time can be then spent just simply being with their loved ones.
Advance care plans do not only focus on your care, they 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.
You can break down this process into 5 steps.
- Thinking about – What is important to you? 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?
- Talking about – Once you have thought about some of the issues, it is a good idea to talk about them to your family/whanau, friends and loved ones, your GP and health care team, and your Enduring Power of Attorney (if you have one).
- Planning for – When you know what’s important to you, and what you want others to be clear about, it’s a good idea to write it down.
- Sharing – Make sure you share your written plan with key family members/whanau, your GP, all members of your health care team, and your Eduring Power of Attorney (if you have one).
- Reviewing – It is a good idea to review your plan each year to make sure nothing has changed for you.
Click here to start your own advance care plan and begin the conversation.