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Update: My Journey into Advance Care Planning

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Apr 11, 2019

Fancy C. Poitras

Senior Policy Analyst, FNHA

In 2016, I wrote about My Journey in Advance Care Planning, and talked about why it was important for me (and for everyone) to have an Advance Care Plan.  Three years later, as I work on developing tools that will hopefully help care providers have these conversations in a culturally safe way with First Nations people, I took a deeper dive into understanding the forms and processes in BC, and, well, I'm not going to lie, it was complicated; I could see why people might not want to start documenting their wishes, or why they might get frustrated and stop.

In BC, legislation created a situation where, at first glance, there seems to be a stack of documents involved in documenting your wishes for what happens when you can't make decisions or express your needs, and it might not seem clear which ones you need and when.  There are a lot of good resources and websites to help navigate this confusion, but the heart of doing an Advance Care Plan is really about answering some important questions for yourself—once you know these answers, it should help you to document your wishes, and importantly, talk about what you would want with those you trust to speak on your behalf.

Questions which I have considered, and which may help you think about your wishes include:

• What matters to me?  What are three things about myself I need people to know about me, so they can understand what's important to me?

• Who do I want supporting me and taking care of my practical needs?  (e.g., paying my bills, taking care of my place, etc.)

• Who do I want speaking on my behalf when I'm sick and can't speak for myself?

• If something happens to me, what would I consider care that respects my wishes and beliefs?  What would I want or not want?

• Are there important things in my past which help me understand what I want?

• If I had a choice, where would I want to be cared for? 

• Are my family members actually able to care for me at home?

• Where do I want to be if my care needs mean I can't stay at home?​

Answering questions like these help me figure out some things, but I have to remember I can't plan for everything!  I have to understand that things can happen which I did not plan for, so it's important to have conversations with my husband and my parents—as they will need to make health and personal decisions on my behalf, and support each other in doing it—so I know that they understand what I want and why I want it.

I know already that I can talk to my mother about anything in a very candid way, but when it comes to talking with my husband or my father, this is not a subject they talk about as openly, so I need a way to broach the subject with them.  Literally just in time, the theme of national Advance Care Planning Day 2019 (April 16th) is "How Well Do You Know Me?"  This year's focus provides a useful Conversation Starter which includes important questions I and others can use to try and open up the discussion.  Maybe by starting this conversation with my husband and my parents, I will also learn about what matters to them, so I can make better informed decisions if I'm ever called upon to make do so on their behalf.

If you want to learn more about Advance Care Planning or find the most up-to-date tools, documents and forms available in BC, you can visit the Advance Care Planning webpage on the Government of BC website.

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