Tuesday 4 April 2017
Kiwis urged to start talking about planning for end-of-life care
You may be hearing a lot about ‘conversations that count’ this month. That’s because April is the month that Kiwis are being asked to think about, talk about and plan for their future and end-of-life care.
With the theme ‘Get them talking’, Conversations that Count Day on 5 April encourages people to think about and share with their loved ones what is important to them as they near the end of their life.
Dr Barry Snow, clinical lead of the National Advance Care Planning Cooperative, says having an advance care plan is a great way to record this information and share it with your family and health care team.
“For example, what medical treatment would you want if you had a life-threatening illness? Would you want to be kept comfortable with your pain controlled, or for your life to be prolonged with active life-support medical treatments?
“What is important to you and gives your life meaning? This might include people and pets, your values and the ways you would like those caring for you to look after your spiritual, cultural and emotional needs.”
Dr Snow says having an advance care plan is particularly important if you become too unwell to tell your loved ones and health care team what you want yourself.
“Many people see having an advance care plan as an important gift as it can relieve loved ones of the burden of having to make decisions on their behalf.”
Arthur Te Anini agrees. He has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD – an umbrella term for emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma – a chronic illness that he knows will limit his life.
It’s a sobering thought, but the ex-army man understands that thinking about and planning for his future and end-of-life care makes everything much less scary.
So, Arthur (Ngāti Whanaunga) has completed an advance care plan that tells his whānau and health care team what’s important to him and the end-of-life care he’d like.
“Having been in the army, the idea of an advance care plan appealed to me. I could see it straight away. It presents clear information, not just for me, but for my family and medical team too,” he said.
“For example, if I reach the stage where I can’t speak and prolonging my life would be futile, I don’t want to be kept alive by having a feeding tube or being hooked up to machines. My advance care plan was an opportunity to say that to my medical team, while I could.”
Arthur’s plan also says that if he is unable to speak for himself it’s important to him that he is “kept presentable – clean shaven, fingernails cut and wearing clean clothes. Where I am isn’t important to me, but I’d like to hear familiar voices singing and talking”.
“It’s a huge relief to have done my advance care plan and to know that my whānau and my health care team are aware of it. I can still change it at any time, but it means I am free to enjoy my life.”
There are lots of free resources to help Kiwis think about and prepare their advance care plan at http://www.advancecareplanning.org.nz.