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Who will be your voice?

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Our parents aren’t getting any younger.  Our teenagers are learning to drive. Unexpected accidents with serious consequences happen every day.

No one likes to talk about confronting issues like this, but it’s a fact any one of us can lose those who are most important in our lives to an illness or terrible accident.

If you found yourself thrust into this situation, would you know your loved one’s end of life wishes?

Would they like to be kept alive at all costs?  On a breathing machine?  On a feeding tube?

Or would they say that if the quality of life they once enjoyed is gone, they don’t want too much medical treatment?

Have you thought about your own wishes and the impact it would have on your family if they weren’t sure what you really wanted?

Getting your end of life wishes down on paper is one way that you can alleviate the stress of your family and close friends if an accident or illness occurs.

It’s hard to start the conversation, but it can be even harder if you don’t.

ACT Medicare Local (ACTML) has started the “Be My Voice” campaign to encourage family and friends to initiate conversations with their loved ones about their values and wishes around future healthcare.

ACTML’s Chair, Dr Sharma, is a GP on the southside of Canberra.  She said through her general practice she’s seen many examples of the tension caused between family members when they are required to make choices on behalf of their family member.

“I had a patient who was involved in a terrible car accident who was not expected to regain consciousness.  His family had to decide if he would have wanted to be kept alive with full time nursing care and for how long to continue the care. If he had written down his wishes in an Advance Care Plan, the doubt would have been removed,” Dr Sharma said.

She said developing an Advance Care Plan will ensure that an individual can make decisions regarding their future healthcare while they still have the capacity to do so, and allows them to communicate those wishes to family, friends and health care professionals. If there is a lack of decision making capacity, either temporarily or permanently, having an Advance Care Plan in place provides a pathway for health professionals and carers to offer quality care in line with the patient’s wishes.

“While these conversations can be difficult and perhaps confronting, having a plan ensures that your wishes  are communicated clearly and assists loved ones when faced with difficult decisions later on,” said Dr Sharma.

Most of us have had life experiences and possess values that we would use to shape our choices, if faced with a difficult decision, about our future health and lifestyle.

In the ACT, we are fortunate to have the ACT Health Respecting Patient Choices Program. This ACT government funded initiative has a team of trained facilitators who can provide additional information and assist with the completion of Advance Care Planning documentation.

If you want to find out more about “Be My Voice”, check out www.bemyvoice.com.au.

Advance care planning is relevant for every person’s age and life stage. When will you have the conversation?

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One Response to Who will be your voice?

anon says: 14 May, 2014 at 12:19 pm

My mother has been seriously ill for a number of years, requiring round the clock care. Now that my dad is getting on I am faced with the possible situation of having to make some very tough decisions on their behalf. I’m glad they have had the foresight to prepare for the future – putting in place Power of Attorney, wills, pre-paid funeral plans etc and generally getting their affairs in order so that if something happens to them I will know who to call and what to do without having to wade through a mess of paperwork and legal issues. The conversations we’ve had about their wishes have been very emotional but are nessecary to ensure that i can honour and care for them as they would want in their final days. Not having to second guess myself is one less thing to worry about when the time comes and I am extremly grateful that my parents have done everything they can to lessen the burden.

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