A national poll was commissioned by the ‘Speak Up’ Advance Care Planning in Canada initiative to identify people’s current attitudes and behaviours towards planning for their future health and personal care. Respondents identified what makes it easier to have a conversation about their wishes and what makes it tough to plan ahead. While attitudes towards Advance Care Planning are overall positive, behaviour has not followed; eight in ten Canadians have given end-of-life care some thought, but less than one in five have an advance care plan.
The poll, conducted by Nanos Research in February 2019, was released to national, provincial and territorial stakeholders to support them in developing strategies to raise awareness and encourage people in Canada to move from thinking to doing. An infographic illustrating some of the key findings is available on Speak Up website.
Mary Ann Murray, the Project Director of the Speak Up initiative, says “Advance Care Planning can provide solace to your family and loved ones. Helping them to understand and know what you would want enables your voice to be part of conversations even if you can’t speak for yourself. It is more than thinking about end of life care; sometimes the unexpected happens and for a brief period you can’t speak for yourself”.
Most people in Canada value conversations about their future or personal health care; 93% think it’s important to discuss advance care planning with family and friends, 80% think it’s important to discuss it with a health care provider and 66% said it’s important to discuss it with a lawyer.
When asked when to plan, 36 percent of respondents said when they are healthy, 28 percent when they are making their will and 11 percent when diagnosed with a serious illness. On average, people in Canada say Advance Care Planning should start when a person is in their late 40s.
Chad Hammond, the Project Manager of the Speak Up initiative, says “There seems to be a growing interest globally in having these conversations earlier and with more people, but also shared concerns about finding time, support, and resources to aid in broaching the topic. The attitudes and behaviours expressed within the 2019 poll mirror similar national polls conducted in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand within the last couple years.”
Progress has been made
A previous survey was conducted in 2013 by the CHPCA about Advance Care Planning. A comparison of results shows significant progress has been made in shifting attitudes towards stating future personal and health care conversations. The 2019 survey found that 80 percent have thought about Advance Care Planning – up from 74 percent in 2013. Most say it is important to talk about ACP with family and friends (93% vs 44% in 2013), health care providers (80% vs 51% in 2013) and a lawyer (66% vs 36% in 2013).
The ‘Speak Up’ Advance Care Planning (ACP) in Canada initiative is led by the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) with a financial contribution from Health Canada. The initiative aims to help people living in Canada prepare for their future and personal health care. The project involves a series of public awareness campaigns, supports community-based ACP programs, and promotes ACP resources and guides.