It can be one of the most difficult conversations you’ll ever have. No one wants to think about it, let alone discuss it.
But determining what kind of care you want to receive at the end of your life – and, more importantly, what you don’t – is a talk we all should have with our loved ones. And not just once.
It’s called Advance Care Planning, and it’s best viewed as an ongoing dialogue between you and your partner or family.
“Never assume your family will know what wishes or instructions you have for your health care, in case you aren’t able to make those decisions for yourself,” says Vicki Kennedy, a clinical nurse specialist for palliative care. “Advance care planning is thinking about that, talking with your loved ones, and then writing down your wishes and instructions for present or future care needs. It means reflecting on spiritual, cultural, emotional and mental aspects of your wellbeing, and how these frame your decisions. And it’s so important for people of all ages to do when they are well and not in a health crisis, because you can never predict the future.”
Your wishes and instructions are summarized in an Advance Care Plan. This plan helps your loved ones and your health care team make decisions about your care. It may help avoid unwanted medical treatments, and can help prevent family conflict between people who think they know what you’d like for your care.
Advance Care Planning helps you to:
- THINK about your values, beliefs and wishes
- HONOUR your personal, cultural and/or spiritual traditions
- TALK with your family about your wishes and instructions
- GUIDE your health care team to give you the care that is right for you
- DECIDE who you want to speak for you, if you are not able to speak for yourself
- RECORD your wishes
- HAVE peace of mind that your financial and legal affairs are in order
“Think about Advance Care Planning as a gift that you can give to those who matter most to you,” says Vicki. “If and/or when there comes a time when, due to illness, you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself, Advance Care Planning can help provide clarity and lessen the burden on those you care about, because they will know what your wishes are, and be better prepared to speak for you when you can’t speak for yourself.”
Click here for resources that can help you prepare an Advance Care Plan.