On Thursday 5 April, New Zealanders will be encouraged to think about, talk about, and plan for their future and end-of-life care. Advance Care Planning Day (previously known as Conversations that Count Day) is coordinated by the Health Quality & Safety Commission. It is an ideal time to talk to your whānau/family and others close to you about things like:
- what type of care you would like towards the end of your life;
- where would you want to be cared for if you could no longer care for yourself;
- any particular worries you have about being ill or dying.
You should also talk to your GP or other health care professionals about the medical choices you might have to face in the future.
Many of us talk about what we might do when we retire or if we win Lotto. We organise insurances; we make our wills. But not many people find it easy to talk about what they would like (or would not like) to happen if we become very frail or unwell. Advance care planning is a way to document what’s important to you, including your personal values and how future care or end-of-life care should take into account your spiritual and emotional needs.
The value of having such a plan in place is especially clear if someone becomes too unwell to communicate their needs and wants. When this happens, a documented advance care plan is really helpful in relieving the burden on family members who are needing to make decisions on another person’s behalf.
These conversations can be difficult, but they are always worthwhile. To help you prepare your own personal advance care plan, see the free resources on the Health Quality & Safety Commission website.
The message for Advance Care Planning Day is clear: on Thursday, 5 April start a conversation with your partner, your family, your friends. Talk about what’s important to you as you get older, how you want to live the rest of your life, and your future healthcare needs.
Helen Sawyer is a Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Southern DHB (Otago), New Zealand.