Advance Care Planning

In February I attended an Advance Care Planning workshop again organised by Living Well Dying Well and this day looked at what people can do to put things in place regarding their care should they lose the capacity to make decisions.  Thinking about dying perhaps seems a little pessimistic, gloomy or morbid but really we have probably all thought about it already:

  • Making a will – deciding who you want to have your ‘stuff’ when you are dead.  Thinking about ‘stuff’ is easy.  We don’t want the tax man to get their hands on it so perhaps many years before we die we leave a legal document saying how our belonging should be distributed.
  • Organ donation – by registering as an organ donor you are making decisions about what you want to happen to parts of your body after you have died.  You are giving permission for your organs to be harvested and used to help others to live.

If we are happy to think about what we want to happen to ‘stuff’ and organs once we have died, does it not make sense to give consideration to how we would like to be treated before we die?  Of course while we have mental capacity this is not an issue but what if something were to happen to change this?  What if we were unable to make decisions about what treatment we did or did not want to receive?

This could be as the result of dementia, which may creep up slowly and give us time to make plans or it may be due to a sudden event – a stroke – an accident – and it may happen at any age.  We may have close family who we trust to make decisions in our best interests but do we really want them to have to make decisions about life saving treatment when they are emotional and going through an intensely difficult time?  If we don’t have close family or friends who we would be happy to make decisions for us, do we want those decisions put in the hands of medical staff who do not know us?

Talking about death and making plans doesn’t bring it any closer or speed its progression.  If this were the case I would have won the lottery and be living the high life somewhere hot and sunny – after all I have thought about it, talked about it and dreamed about it for years but I am still waiting!  What it does do is give us control, and for me reassurance that when I am approaching the end of my life, be that next week or in 50 years time my wishes will be listened to even if I am not able to make the decisions at the time.

There are various things that can be put in to place, each serving a different purpose and I will be doing a post on each.

Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment (ADRT)
Advance Care Plan / Wishes and Preferences document
Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare
Lasting Power of Attorney for Finance and Property
Do Not Attempt Resuscitation Order (DNACPR)

Statistics say that 100% of us are going to die at some point.  It is never too early to make a plan but it may one day be too late.


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