Many of us are dealing with emotions of anxiety, worry and uncertainty about the future. The last few months have brought about new and unexpected challenges. Health has been at the forefront of this, and this may have caused you think about your personal health, the risks to you and your family, and what if something were to happen unexpectedly.
Thinking about the future, and especially the end of a life is an emotive and sensitive subject, involves difficult and courageous conversations and some may have contemplated over this more than others, if at all. We are all unique in our views on what constitutes good care at the end of life, and although it may be frightening and uncomfortable to think about, it is one we may have to encounter either for ourselves, or whilst looking after a loved one.
Advanced care planning is a voluntary process which will enable you to communicate your wishes about your future medical care with those closest to you and your medical team.
Some of you may be in good health and wonder why you need to do this, but as the last few months have shown us, life can take unexpected turns. If you have the privilege to be able to communicate your wishes now, then now is the perfect time. For those of you that may have chronic health conditions, it may be something you have thought about but didn’t know where or how to start.
Another reason advanced care planning is valuable, is to support your close family and friends. It can be difficult when families are placed in a situation where they need to make important decisions on behalf of a loved one, when it has not been discussed before. They may not know what your wishes are, or how to advocate for them.
Although there is no definitive way to go about advanced care planning, you may wish to consider the following steps:
1. Think: think about what is important to you and what you would/would not want. Some questions you may wish to reflect on are: Where would you like to be cared for at the end of your life? Are there any treatments you wish to refuse if they became necessary (this may include tube feeding, resuscitation and ICU care)? If you were no longer able make decisions about your care, would you want a family member to do this for you?
2. Talk: discuss your thoughts with your family, friends, solicitor and GP or Specialist doctor involved in your care.
3. Record: although it is not always necessary to formally write down your preferences, it can be helpful for those involved. Your GP can put a copy in your medical record. Some choices must be written down and witnessed e.g. an advance decision to refuse life sustaining treatment.
4. Review: review your care plan- your circumstances can change, and this may alter your preferences and priorities. You are free to change your mind at any point.
Remember, entering these discussions is completely voluntary and you can change your mind at any point.
If you are ready to start this process, some resources you may wish to look at are below: