What is Advance care planning and why is it important?

Aug 8, 2020 | Advance Care Planning

Want to get your head around advance care planning? Exsitu step you through what it is and why it’s important to you.

Advance care planning has been the quiet little sister in the pile of legal documents we associate with doing the right thing by our families when it comes to the later stages of life. Despite being the foundation of being able to have your needs and wants met when you lose the ability to speak for yourself, we don’t often find the Advance Care Plan sitting atop the coffee table with the Will or brochures from the aged care providers or the funeral homes.

Yet advance care planning is about self-advocacy and choice. It’s that safety net we can build to make sure the person we are is not lost when a focus shifts to medical or aged care.

As we get older or lose capability through illness and/or disability, we can potentially lose our independence. We become reliant on systems and services. We lose some of the ability to run our lives the way we’ve previously enjoyed.

But that does not mean we should ever lose what we value most in the process.

Advance care planning gives you the unique ability to speak from a perspective of what matters, even if you can no longer say or write the words yourself. Here’s how.

Advance care planning in a nutshell

Advance care planning is about summing up the kinds of choices, preferences, and wishes you have when it comes to a care environment or your end of life choices.

Many people understand aspects of Advance Care Planning, such as whether or not to donate your organs after death. Or whether or not to resuscitate you if something happens during a surgery. But many average Australians don’t realise the granular details and wishes you can place at the centre of your care experience.

You have the opportunity to be your own champion through this important document.

By having an advance care plan, you’re outlining what should happen if you lose the ability to speak for yourself. For example, if you have a stroke, develop dementia, or lose the ability to communicate due injuries sustained in a car accident.

It’s what your family and the medical professionals treating you, the aged care facility or anyone else involved in looking after you in both temporary and long-term situations, can use as a blueprint.

The kinds of elements that are mixed into an advance care plan include:

  1. The decisions and choices you make about your medical care. It gives you the opportunity outline the kind of care and the sorts of medical decisions that might need to be made to support you.
  2. Defining what care looks like for you. Exploring your care options when you become aged and/or need a medium to high level of support. For example, staying in your home versus moving in with the family or moving to aged care. Or if you would prefer to stay home and modify the home to meet disability needs versus moving to assisted living. Even the selection of aged care and the style of place you feel most comfortable may come into play.
  3. The point at which you might decline treatment and/or seek treatment alternatives. This can also include the kinds of treatments that you may wish to refuse. For example, if blood transfusions are not culturally appropriate. Or if you wish to stop dialysis for kidney treatment, what reaching that point may look like for you.
  4. Designating your champions and their roles. Nominating people within your family or supporting teams such as friends, lawyers, or other advocates as the people to make decisions for you if you are unable to.

This is the nuts and bolts of what we expect in advance care planning. Often, we think it begins and ends with medical care or high-level decision making. But the reality is advance care can be leveraged to do so much more than that.

Want to know more about Advance Care Planning?

There is an amazing array of decisions and personally tailored aspects of your end-of-life or aged care experience that the standard approaches to advance care planning do not cover. Values are at the heart of the best advance care planning opportunities. Take a look at all the wonderful opportunities to distill what matters to you that advance care planning can provide you.

It is these values that ExSitu elicits from each and every client we work with. Whether you’re an aged care facility looking to address the needs of your many and varied clients. Or you’re an individual who wishes to have an end of life experience as rich, personal and reflective as the life you lead today, we can help.

Contact April and Rebecca from Exsitu to make your advance care planning journey simple,
genuine, and tailored now.

For example:

If chemotherapy offers an extension of life of weeks or months but because of the ways you have responded to chemo in the past, you would spend the majority of your time unwell and unable to leave bed, you may be greeted with a choice that looks like:

  1. At what point would the side effects generated by treatments such as chemotherapy be acceptable if it prolonged your life?
  2. At what point would you prefer to feel less of chemo’s side effects so that the time that remains was spent without sickness and nausea to travel or do things you enjoy?

For a person who wants to see their Granddaughter walk down the aisle, it may be the best option. For another person who wants to play with smaller Grandkids, it may be more appealing to have a shorter time limit and be more active.

These sorts of decisions are reflected in what we value as a person. And how we define a life well-lived.

Dignity versus risk

Beyond treatment, you may be willing to accept risks that perhaps the notes on your medication or members of your family see as too great.

This is where the ExSitu advance care plan and the focus on your individual values starts advocating for your dignity versus everyday risks that others may perceive you wish to avoid on your behalf.

For example, from an aged care provider perspective, it might not be safe to let you enjoy a thunderstorm on your room’s balcony. Or perhaps your well-intended adult children want you to stop with your nightly sherry in case it interferes with your heart medication. You however may see the risk associated with a front row seat in one last belly-busting storm before you die, as one worth taking. Or you may believe a day worth living should be celebrated with a tiny nightly tipple that is worth the potential of medication making you feel a tad nauseous at 94.

It’s about defining those moments where the system and your family may be well meaning and risk- adverse while accidentally removing some of your choice in the process.

You as a roadmap of values

Grabbing all the tiny scraps, motivations, complications, and contradictions that make you the person you are today helps inform the advance care plan of the future. You are made up of the smallest of choices. Those are not short answer questions but reflections of your values. The Australian approach to advance care plan creation has moved away from short-answer form to tapping into the core of who you are as a person via what you value the most.

You cannot possibly answer every single eventuality you might face in a care environment. But you can lay a solid foundation of values that reflect what matters for you when you are being cared for.

This is what advance care planning aims to achieve.

Having the advance care plan, A, B or C

Many mothers smile knowingly at mothers-to-be for their well thought out, romanticised birth plans. Many couples of several decade have had more than a cheerful chuckle at the naïve newlyweds who insist their marriage will be sensational without legwork and at times, awkward conversations. Many seasoned parents are still surprised by the many different ways their children can continually throw them for a loop.

Life is a wonderful teacher. The best laid plans are often abandoned in the face of life’s other ideas.

However, our ability as human beings to adapt, to deal with situations, and to make the absolute best of what remains is definitely enhanced by the inclusion of a well-made plan.

End of life is no different.

Even if we cannot access the Plan A of dying at home with the jazz softly playing, surrounded by the family, pets snoozing by the fire, with a feeling of peace and contentment, we can still enjoy the comfort of Plan B. Plan B can still see the family by our side, our beloved Labrador’s photo on the bedside table to remind us they have a safe new home with your dog-doting Daughter-in-Law, and your favourite knee rug from the lounge reminding you of your dear departed Gran at the end of the hospital bed.

It’s what we value, not how it’s represented, that matters.

When we know we value the little things and can convey them as part of our advance care plan, we have a greater chance of giving ourselves- and the people we love- the end of life we seek.

Be more than a series of medical decisions or legal documents.

ExSitu is switching advance care planning from tick boxes and short answers into creating a safety net for your values. It’s designed to capture you at the very essence of what matters to you.

Want to know how you can create an advance care plan to capture the heart of who you are? Get in touch now.

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