National Advance Care Planning Week, initiated by Advance Care Planning Australia is coming soon. Advance Care Planning week is a good time to think about your values and beliefs, talk with your family about your future health care wishes, and make these choices known.
If you were unable to communicate your health care choices to doctors, because of illness or accident, who would speak on your behalf? Would they know and therefore make the same decisions you would make for yourself?
It is sometimes difficult to start conversations with loved ones about what living well means to you and to consider who would make a good decision-maker if you were too sick to speak for yourself. However, it is important.
I’d like you to meet…
Linda Bloom celebrated her retirement by going on a charity bike ride to raise money for Type 1 Diabetes research inspired by the plight of her grandson Oscar. She started her training on her 69th birthday and was very disciplined in her training schedule. Linda was feeling a bit stiff and slow the day of the ride but put it down to overtraining. It was embarrassing when, five kilometres from the finish line, Linda fell off her bike into a ditch sustaining scratches and bruises to limb and pride. It wasn’t until her annual check-up that she realised this fall was the beginning of a change in her general health condition. Her scans and blood tests showed honeycomb bones, arthritis in most of her joints and an under-performing thyroid. To top it off, after a life time of never using her sick leave, she had had the flu twice in the same year.
Since then, Linda’s life has taken on a very different pace. Apart from looking after Oscar two days a week, Linda spends much of her time keeping herself as well as possible. She got back on the bike and now pedals to the shops and down to the post office, rather than driving the car. She wants to get everything in order while she still can: rewrite her Will, pre-pay her funeral, appoint her daughter Karen and her son-in-law Eric (more like a son) as her decision-makers on the Enduring Power of Attorney document. The GP gave Linda an advance care planning brochure and suggested she look at the various options for documenting her future health care choices. Although her late husband had chosen the Advance Health Directive to take the decision-making pressure off her, Linda liked the Statement of Choices because it covered all the things she wanted Karen and Eric to know about her values and beliefs and provided places to record her quality of life and end-of-life choices. For this conversation Linda wanted Karen and Eric to be together and really listen to what’s important to her and what she could not bear to happen in the future. It is all about dignity and not lingering on if there is no quality of life. It’s also about how Oscar remembers her and the last days of her life. Linda thinks he will manage well so long as the adults do!
In preparation, Linda downloaded the “Tips Sheet” from the website www.mycaremychoices.com.au to guide her to complete the Statement of Choices Form A so her choices would be very clear to the doctors in the future if there ever came a time when she could not communicate her own choices. The GP was very happy to answer all of Linda’s questions about treatments, what may happen at the end of life, and to sign the Statement of Choices form. Karen and Eric both softly wept as they read her words on the form, but said they felt honoured that Linda trusted them to stand up for her. They both accepted their appointment as Linda’s attorneys for personal/health and financial matters and Linda’s neighbour, being a Justice of the Peace, was able to witness her signature on the Enduring Power of Attorney form.
Eric then scanned and emailed a copy of both documents to the Office of Advance Care Planning at firstname.lastname@example.org, and suggested Linda keep the originals in the red folder in the filing cabinet for safe-keeping. The nurses at the Office of ACP checked the copies and uploaded them to Linda’s secure Queensland Health electronic medical record.
Now Linda has peace of mind, and Karen and Eric have the confidence to speak up for Linda’s values if they are ever put in the position of making health care choices on her behalf. Linda’s dignity can be preserved and everyone will know how to honour her and her choice to die peacefully in Karen and Eric’s home.
In the meantime, the free baby-sitting service will continue!
More information can be found at the Office for Advance Care Planning: