Have you done an advance care plan?

October 1st, 2018

Today is International Day of Older Persons, and the Health Quality & Safety Commission of New Zealand is calling for those aged 60 and above to answer “What matters to you?” Advance care planning (ACP) is the process of thinking about, talking about and planning for future health care and end-of-life care.

Planning for her future care was the last thing on Wendy Betteridge’s mind, until a cardiac arrest 18 months ago forced her to change her thinking. Wendy’s life has taken her around the world. Born in India, she played hockey for England before moving to New Zealand with her young family in 1979.

Now an independent and busy woman in her 70s, Wendy is a stalwart of her community in Porirua, where she’s involved in the local rotary club and was until recently president of the croquet club. ‘When I had the cardiac arrest, I had to think about a lot of new things. About three months afterwards my daughter asked me if I wanted to be resuscitated,’ says Wendy. ‘I thought, “definitely not”.’ This led to Wendy developing an advance care plan.

Advance care planning is the process of exploring what matters to you when thinking about end-of-life care. The advance care planning programme is co-ordinated by the Health Quality & Safety Commission, for district health boards. Commission director of communications Lizzie Price says sharing information with your loved ones and health care team in an advance care plan means treatment and care plans can be tailored to support your wishes.

‘It will also tell them about the treatment and care you want if you are no longer able to tell them yourself. ‘An advance care plan includes things like your values and emotional and spiritual needs. It can also cover what sort of funeral you would like, whether you want to donate your organs and whether you want to be buried or cremated.’

For Wendy Betteridge, filling out a plan was straightforward, and it encouraged discussion with her family about what will happen in the time leading up to when she dies. ‘It was lovely – it’s an easy document to work through. I put my wishes down all the way through and we even talked about things like where I want my ashes. It was a nice process and my family don’t feel squeamish about it now. I feel totally at peace.’

The Health Quality & Safety Commission encourages people to plan for unforeseen circumstances and talk to their loved ones about what really matters to them. ‘An advance care plan can help shape that conversation and guide you through some of the more difficult issues,’ says Lizzie Price.

‘Having a plan in place also means older people’s wishes are at the heart of any care planning discussions, whether they are living independently, receiving home-based care or living in an aged residential care facility.’

To find out more about advance care planning or to develop your own advance care plan go to www.advancecareplanning.org.nz.