National Advance Care Planning Week. Regardless of age or health status, we encourage and support all Australians to make their future health care preferences known.
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
Let’s say you are in your 90s and in hospital with non-verbal dementia receiving treatment for an antibiotic-resistant infection via a cannular and low electrolytes through an intravenous potassium drip. You start pulling out the tubes to put an end to your treatment.
Without an advance care directive or family intervention advising otherwise, the doctor in charge will restrain you and replace the tubes as hospital guidelines focus on diagnosis and treatment to cure and discharge the patient.
This scenario, along with three other similar scenarios, were experienced by Dr Merran Cooper in one day during her regular hospital ward rounds:
The distress and suffering experienced by patients in these commonly occurring scenarios moved Dr Cooper to set up a service called Touchstone Life Care offering Australians digital advance care plans.
The digital plan notes down your end of life wishes and can be quickly and easily accessed by hospitals, doctors and family members to ensure your wishes are respected.
This discussion comes to the fore as this week is National Advance Care Planning Week, 21 to 27 March 2022. Hosted by Advance Care Planning Australia, this year’s theme poses the questions:
“If you were too unwell to speak for yourself,
who would speak for you and what would they say?”
In Dr Cooper’s scenarios, where there is no advance care directive and no family present, the doctor in charge will have the say and it will be to pull out all stops to keep you alive.
Doctors put forward a number of factors that lead them to the conclusion that it is often much easier to continue treatment than talk with patients and families about the end of life.
The factors include: not having the time and private space for such conversations; lack of the necessary communication skills and training to embark on such conversations, noting that junior doctors are often in charge of the patient’s day-to-day care, particularly out of hours; and personal factors such as fear of complaints and litigation.
To avoid unnecessary distress and suffering, it is up to the individual to plan ahead. With National Advance Care Planning Week in full swing, there is no better time to:
Start having the discussion with family about your end of life wishes
Create your advance care plan
Upload your plan to your My Health Record, provide a copy to family members, your GP and solicitor, and consider the digital service provided by Touchstone Life Care.
Australia is considered a ‘death denying’ society where many people are reluctant to consider their own mortality and talk with their families about their end of life wishes.
Being a death denying society is a problem. Unnecessary physical, emotional and spiritual distress arises from unwanted medical treatment and, of course, continued invasive and ineffective investigations and treatments come at a financial cost to society.
If you are in your 50s and 60s and have not yet put in place an advance care plan, it is advisable to do so. It is also critical to ensure your plan can be easily accessed.
The key to quality living in your senior years is to plan ahead and get your affairs in order WELL BEFORE a life event occurs. This is the DR Care Solutions message and a core part of our service.
Danielle is often invited to speak to community groups on the importance of advance care planning and welcomes the opportunity to deliver this message to your group. To find out more about Danielle's speaking engagements, please click through below: