What would happen if you experienced a sudden illness or were in a major accident that prevented you from making your own medical decisions? How would you ensure you received the kind of care you wanted? Would your family or loved ones know enough about your wishes to comfortably and confidently make decisions on your behalf?
Advance care planning (ACP) is all about planning for the “what ifs” that may occur across a person’s entire lifespan. It is about planning ahead to ensure the healthcare treatment you receive is consistent with your wishes, especially if you become unable to make decisions or speak for yourself.
Whether someone is healthy today, facing an acute illness or a long-term chronic illness, advance care planning can help alleviate unnecessary suffering, improve quality of life and provide better understanding of the decision-making challenges individuals and their caregivers face. ACP also helps to reduce the stress and burdens families may face with forced to make healthcare and end-of-life decisions for a loved one.
All adults from the age of 18 and older should begin to think about making an advance care plan. Research your options. Share your wishes. Write it down.
There are many steps you can take to keep the conversation going, such as:
1. Make a list of the three most important things you want you loved ones to know about your end-of life wishes.
2. Think about who you would want to make medical decision on your behalf if you were unable to speak for yourself.
3. Plan when and where you will have these conversations.
4. Make a list of questions for your doctor.
5. Fill out an advance directive to record your wishes and legally appoint an agent to speak on your behalf.
6. Make copies of your advance directive and give them to your agent, doctor and anyone else you would like to know your wishes.
7. Review your advance directive at least annually to make sure it still fits your current wishes.
8. Talk with those close to you about your wishes and encourage them to discuss their wishes as well.
With so many things to think about, it sometimes feels easier to not bother worrying about. Unfortunately, often by the time an advance care plan would be most helpful is when we are at our most helpless. That is why April 16 is National Advance Care Planning Day. It’s to remind us to take the first step.
The Quesnel & District Hospice Palliative Association is here to help make the road less lonely. The QDHPCA is offering a free virtual workshop on Saturday, May 15, 2021 about advance care planning. More information and event sign-up can be found at www.qdhpca.org/advancecareplanning.