They had planned for the future by making wills and having life insurance, and then they discovered Advance Care Planning which would make decisions easier for their families if one or both of them could not make health care decisions for themselves.
“I found out about Advance Care Planning when we were discussing it at Hospice” said Sullivan, Learning and Effectiveness Leader at North Okanagan Hospice Society.
Strilchuk said “It’s difficult to think about your own mortality and that of the people you love. If I had thought about it, it was more in terms of when life support would be stopped, and even if I had an opinion on that, who would I tell it to? The first time we talked it was a bit uncomfortable but as we talked more, I could see that it was the right thing for us to do,” said Strilchuk, software developer with AVS Systems.
The couple talked to their sons, Cole, 12, and Connor, 10, who understand the basic concept of Advance Care Planning. They talked to their extended family members and encouraged them to think about making their own Advance Care Plans.
They used the My Voice Advance Care Planning guide developed by the BC Ministry of Health to help people record their wishes for health care when they can’t speak for themselves. The guide includes legal forms and information about situations when legal advice is needed. The guide covers beliefs (what makes life meaningful), values (what a person cares about in life), and wishes (future health care treatment, life support and life-prolonging medical intervention), as well as naming temporary substitute decision makers.
For Sullivan and Strilchuk, there were no surprises when they completed My Voice. “We had to think about what would be important to us should we be faced with a life-limiting illness or injury.” Once we identified our values, it wasn’t that difficult to document our wishes for future health care treatment that respected those values. The document can be as specific or general as you want. It is a living document. In five years, we may have a different perspective and we can change it. I’m so glad we did this,” said Sullivan. “This is a gift we gave to each other and our loved ones so everyone can be more confident about making decisions at a difficult time.
Strilchuk also likes the sense of being sure. “It took some thinking but it was worthwhile to know it could relieve guilt, doubt and stress for our families. It doesn’t take a lot of time and it wasn’t a daunting task once we started. I have been talking to other people about it and planting the seed and hope they will think of doing this. We don’t know what will happen but we can do the best we can to be prepared.”
For more information about Advance Care Planning see www.interiorhealth.ca or www.healthlinkbc.ca or call 8-1-1. Copies of the guide are available online http://www.crownpub.bc.ca/Product/Details/7610003494_S
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