Advance Care Planning is not a complicated concept to introduce into the community and health care system but how we each understand and use it can be very different.
Jane’s husband Bill was admitted to hospital following a terrible accident. Like any other person, Jane expected her husband to live. Both she and Bill were not yet retired, living a healthy life and had never thought of having a meaningful dialogue about their preferences for the end-of-life. Bill had been on life support for more than a week when the doctor said, “I’m sorry, the news is not good. We have tried an operation to relieve pressure and drugs to reduce swelling. There are no other options to consider.” It was suggested that he be removed from the breathing machine.
Now was the time for an inevitable family meeting as Jane wanted to consult with her daughter and son on what decision she should make. None were prepared for this difficult conversation, it was very emotional talking in the hospital corridor and furthermore Jane didn’t know Bill’s wishes. Her children agreed with the doctor’s decision but Jane was not convinced that it was time yet. And so her husband continued to be in the intensive care unit with monitors and machines for a few more days while Jane questioned herself on what he would want if he could make the choice. Eventually Bill’s heart stopped three weeks after the accident. Jane and her family left the hospital emotionally drained and questioning whether the right decisions had been made.
(Story has been used to demonstrate situations that reflect common experiences when people have to make difficult decisions about end- of-life care.)
Jane’s story represents the reality for many residents in the Waterloo Wellington. Health care decisions are being made at a most emotional time without clear knowledge of the wishes of the patient. This is why the Waterloo Wellington Advance Care Planning Education is essential. To help people like Jane and Bill and their family have earlier conversations about what kind of care they would want for themselves in the future should they become incapable of consenting to or refusing treatment and who they want to make those decisions on their behalf. Communicating those wishes to one’s family and health care providers is important.
The benefits of Advance Care Planning for individuals and their families include:
For more information on Advance Care Planning, please visit us at www.acpww.ca.