Would you go skydiving without a parachute?

By Valerie
June 12, 2012

You make plans on a daily basis — plans about where you want to live, plans about who you want to marry — your career, your life. Have you planned for what would be important to you if you aren’t able to make decisions for yourself about your medical care? Who would you want to do this on your behalf? Do they know you well? Will they know what to do?

Not all of us skydive, but we will all die someday. So what’s the use of avoiding the topic?

In September, 2011, advance care planning legislation was passed in British Columbia allowing you to choose the kind of care you would like to have if you can’t speak for yourself. It also allows you to appoint someone to speak on your behalf. In essence, your advance care plan allows you to make sure that your voice is heard when you cannot speak for yourself by respecting your beliefs and values.

Contrary to some who think advance care planning is only for seniors, it is for young and old alike. Even when you are young and in excellent health, accidents, the unexpected and serious illness can happen to any of us. If you are living with a chronic disease you, too, know that circumstances can change quickly.

Do you know that 50 per cent of Canadians have never talked to family and friends about what they’d want if they were ill and couldn’t speak for themselves? You should decide about the kind of care you would want while you are capable of making your own decisions. You should decide when enough is enough.

Nothing’s more uncomfortable than a conversation about dying. When it comes to talking about dying, most of us run for the hills — but everyone of legal age should have an advance care plan. Remember if you completed a plan before September, 2011, or did so in another province, it may need to be reviewed or updated to be currently valid in British Columbia.

Many people consider an advance care plan as a gift to their loved ones — helping to guide them and your health care providers when you need it most. These plans are meant to be ‘living documents’ enabling you to regularly review and make changes whenever you feel it is necessary. Now is the time to have the talk to your loved ones about your wishes and values and create an advance care plan that works for you. You may never need your advance care plan but, if you do, you’ll be glad that it is there and that you have had these conversations. Remember, it is never too early but it can be too late!

Visit www.AdvanceCarePlanningCV.ca to learn more about how to start the conversation, regularly scheduled free Advance Care Planning community workshops and sample Advance Care Plans. Or, call the Comox Valley Hospice Society at 250-339-5533 for more information.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and the founder of Keystone Eldercare Planning. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

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