Advance Care Planning: Start the conversation about end-of-life care

Interior Health is encouraging residents to think and talk about their wishes for end-of-life care

Interior Health is encouraging residents to think and talk about their wishes for end-of-life care on April 16, National Advance Care Planning day.

“These conversations are important and desired, but can be difficult to initiate,” says Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid.  “Advances in health care mean we are in a position to intervene and extend lives. At the same time we have an increasingly aged population. These factors combined mean that having a plan in place for end-of-life care is more important than ever.”

Advance care planning is a process of reflection and communication about future health care preferences or instructions in the event that you become incapable of speaking for yourself. This process is important as evidence shows 95 per cent of Intensive Care patients lack decision-making capacity at the time a consent decision is required.

Plans may include information about the type of care an individual would or wouldn’t want, as well as other personal information, such as spiritual preferences or specific wishes for family members or friends.

“Providing clients with access to an advance care planning process is a key quality improvement priority for Interior Health. It’s meant to give people an important voice in planning their future health care,” says Interior Health Board Chair Norman Embree.

To support this initiative Interior Health has been conducting training sessions for staff and physicians and disseminating information within communities that will help encourage residents in undertaking the planning process.

Evidence shows that a conversation facilitated by a person trained with knowledge of advance care planning reduces the burden of decision making for loved ones. Research has shown that such planning significantly reduces stress, depression and anxiety in family members and caregivers who are aware of a patient’s wishes and can act with confidence on their behalf.

“These are important considerations that are best made when we are in good health,” says Interior Health Clinical Practice Educator Janice Vance. “Advance care planning allows us to have our wishes about living and dying respected when we are no longer capable of exercising this control ourselves”.

There are three main options within advance care planning that come into effect if you have lost capacity to give or refuse consent at the time care is needed:

· Talk to loved ones who may act as your Temporary Substitute Decision Maker(s.)

· If you’d rather have someone else speak on your behalf, complete a Representation Agreement.

· If you wish to convey specific instructions regarding medical care directly to your doctor, complete an Advance Directive.

For more information visit the Advance Care Planning page under Your Care at www.interiorhealth.ca.