Discussing end-of-life care is difficult, but important
On Advance Care Planning Day, Islanders are encouraged start the important and sensitive conversation about their own end-of-life care.
Since 2012, April 16 has marked national Advance Care Planning Day in Canada. Last spring, Health PEI launched an online advance care planning workbook (www.healthpei.ca/advancecareplanning) that guides users through the key steps to clearly communicate and outline their wishes for health and personal care. Since then, nearly 10,000 Islanders have visited the webpage, with 300 downloading the workbook and more than 60 completing it online.
“Advance Care Planning is about sharing your values and wishes with your family and health professionals now, not later – because you never know when you may face an unexpected event or illness and lose the ability to speak for yourself,” Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell said. “Advance care planning improves a patient’s overall quality of life, quality of end-of-life care, and communication with families. I encourage all Islanders to start the conversation, and ensure that their loved ones are aware of their advance care wishes.”
The interactive workbook includes questions to help Islanders think about the values and beliefs that influence their choice of health care options; definitions of medical terms they will need to know to make informed decisions about their health care options; and other information to help communicate with their health care team and family.
In Canada, 60 percent of individuals believe that it is important to talk about end-of-life care but only 5 per cent have spoken with their primary care provider about it. Advance care planning reduces stress and anxiety for patients and families, as well as for health care providers and on the health care system.
“Talking about end-of-life with family and loved ones can be overwhelming, but it is incredibly important for us all to take the time to have the conversation about the care we want while we can,” says Dr. Mireille Lecours, provincial palliative care medical consultant. “Preparing an advance care plan is not only for seniors or people with terminal illness. Everyone should prepare for end-of-life care; accidents and terminal illnesses can, and do, occur suddenly. It’s important that Islanders complete an advance care plan, and that they discuss their wishes with family, loved ones and members of their health care team.”
In addition to the online workbook, Health PEI and the PEI Chapter of the College of Family Physicians created an advance care planning brochure that was mailed out to 60,000 Island households last spring.
“National Advance Care Planning Day is a perfect opportunity for Islanders to start the conversation about their wishes and take the time to write them down,” said Hospice PEI executive director Nancymarie Arsenault. “It’s important that we ensure our family, friends or other trusted individuals are informed about what we want and what we don’t want for end-of-life care. This will give them the confidence to make the right decisions for us when we can’t make them for ourselves.”