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Advance Care Planning: Why wait?


Woman standing on a beautiful bridge at dusk.

Do you know what Advance Care Planning (ACP) is? Honestly, neither did I.

Hi, my name is Patti, and I am a Nurse Consultant with Northern Health Palliative Care. My position with the Palliative Care team is fairly new, and my knowledge base in regard to ACP was quite limited - until it became a part of my job.

As individuals, we all tend to shy away from thinking about the future and what may happen to our health. Why would we bother thinking about something that is so distant?

Advance Care Planning is about conversations and decisions

Well consider this: imagine how tough it would be on your family if you were in a major accident and on life support. You may have treatment limitations that are important to you, but is your family aware of them? Without a directive or a plan, your loved ones may not know what your wishes are and may have their own ideas on what they feel is the best treatment for you. What should they do, or what would you do if you were in their position?

One would think, that with all of the different experiences I’ve encountered as a nurse throughout my career, that I would be more cognizant of my own plans for end-of-life care. The truth is, I really hadn’t put a lot of thought into what my wishes would be if I was ever unable to speak or make choices regarding my own care. In fact, the most that I had done in respect to an advanced care plan was to sign a consent to be an organ donor! I suppose I never realized how this may affect my family and loved ones until I started working with Palliative Care and learning about ACP.

Advance Care Planning is a way of allowing your loved ones to be aware of your beliefs, wishes and plans, in the event you are unable to speak for yourself. It allows them to have peace of mind if they needed to make treatment choices on your behalf. Without a plan, this can be quite stressful and may even lead to unnecessary animosity among family members during an already difficult time.

Since starting this position I have discussed my wishes with my loved ones, and I am continually encouraging them to think of what theirs may be. Not only do I want my wishes to be known, I want to be aware of what my loved ones would want for themselves if ever the situation arises.

Advance Care Planning resources

The resources at SpeakUp and Advanced Care Planning are very informative, and helped me to find the answers to certain aspects of ACP that I was unsure of. They explain the importance of making a plan, where to begin, and the steps to complete the process. They also give feedback from other individuals through sharing their experiences.

Have you thought about the level of care or treatment that you would wish to have under certain circumstances? Advance Care Planning is about conversations and decisions. It’s about how we care for each other. Now is the time to have these conversations with those closest to you and your physician to let your wishes be known. Discuss options with your doctor and familiarize yourself with the different levels of care. It’s never too early, so make your plan today.