Discussing advance care, much like discussing writing up a will, is something many people are hesitant to do.
However, discussing a family member’s, or patient’s, wishes at the end of their life when they’re receiving palliative care is something we all will have to do one day.
Griffith City Library’s information session – in conjunction with the Local Health Advisory Committee (LHAC), Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN), and Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) – last week aimed to dispel such apprehension.
While the event was, for the most part, attended by seniors, the session and information was also important for the youth and middle-aged to consider as they will be impacted by their family’s decisions also.
Guest speakers included a general practitioner, palliative care nurses, and representatives from Ambulance NSW and MPHN, who explored such areas as end of life planning, goals of care, fears and concerns, the differences between advance care planning and advance care directive (and the pros and cons of each), changing values over time and how they may impact future planning, palliative care, and family.
The differences between advance care planning and advance care directive was one of the key areas of discussion during the information session.
Advance care planning focuses on having a conversation about the future, and in so doing relieves the burden on caregivers. One of the disadvantages however, as noted in the session, is that such conversations may be confronting for the family.
Advance care directives meanwhile are official documentations which can be legally binding.
Guest speaker Doctor Catherine Stuart explained how advance care planning can help solve questions such as, ‘Would that really be what they wanted?’ and discussed how values and decisions can change over time.
For example, Dr Stuart asked, “Would you sacrifice pain relief?”
The session also covered the importance of planning a family member’s wishes in relation to treatment, and resuscitation, which may be necessary if a patient reaches a point where they cannot express their wishes.
At Home Palliative Care Project Manager Matthew Griffin said they wanted to “normalise those conversations and make sure that people put plans in place.”
“We want to make sure members of the community are provided with the information they need – given direction and access to the tools they need to compile an advance care directive, which is the document that comes as a result of an advance care plan,” Mr Griffin said.