Fancy C. Poitras
Senior Policy Analyst, FNHA
No one really wants to spend a lot of time thinking about dying, nor about the worst case scenario of illnesses or a terrible accident. Most people, when asked, state they would prefer to die at home, surrounded by loved ones, in relative peace. With that in mind, it's not surprising to find that many Canadians do not take part in Advance Care Planning.
This March, as I was starting to draft a mini-paper on Advance Care Planning for First Nations, it occurred to me that I didn't have a complete plan for myself. As a member of an advocacy organization focusing on end of life decisions, I have a long-standing familiarity with the documents (advance directives), and I did start my own plan, but as is often the case with this kind of task, I set the unfinished plan aside and went about my life.
Now, here I was, about to put the proverbial pen to paper on increasing knowledge of, comfort with and take-up in advance care planning, and my unfinished business caught up with me. I would be a bit of a hypocrite if I went on with my work, without acknowledging this fact and doing something about it. So, I did something about it. I started easy, completing my advance directive. Then I casually raised in conversation with my partner some of the laws around advance care plans in BC. Then I started to engage my mother, who I would rely on to support my partner if he ever finds that he has to make decisions for me.
With each step, I was aware of how uncomfortable it can be to confront some of these possibilities in the future - I don't want to think about myself in a coma, or a time when I might become so ill that I won't be able to care for myself. But I also didn't like to think about the idea of leaving my care and decision-making to others. I am, what my mother politely calls "very determined", or simply put, stubborn. I tend to go against the grain, and I'm fiercely protective of my privacy and my rights.
That's just one reason why I have finally engaged in this process. Another revolves around circumstances in my life and the lives of people in my family that are nudging me to take on the responsibility of communicating my wishes in advance - a relative who is planning for their death now that medical aid in dying is legal; concerns about my ageing parents; discussions with my partner about adoption; thoughts about the well-being of my siblings and their families; and some recent losses and near-misses in my extended family and among friends.
I know some people just may never be ready to think about and discuss these things, at least not until fate forces their hand, but it's important to always be honest and open about the process, and to let those people know there is always a way to start the process when the time is right for them.
If you are considering your future, and would like to know more about Advance Care Planning in BC, there are great resources out there, complete with detailed tools and exercises to help you figure out what kind of plan you would like to have. The BC Centre for Palliative Care (http://www.bc-cpc.ca/cpc/) is a great start, and the BC Government also has information and resources to help in the process (http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/family-social-supports/seniors/health-safety/advance-care-planning).