Advance care planning: a family discussion

Thinking about life’s last stretch may be more difficult for the later starters in the race.

Thinking about life’s last stretch may be more difficult for the later starters in the race.

On March 2, twelve participants attended the first interactive workshop for advance care planning at the Omineca Medical Clinic.

Co-hosting the event with health practice support coach Heather Goretzky, Dr. Nicole Ebert looks to engage the younger population and have different generations at the next workshop in April.

“A lot of the people [here] are engaged, and not worried, already talking about it,” Ebert said. “We didn’t have the younger group…the questions would be different, such as medical intervention.”

For example, the CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) procedure seemed to save all when it first emerge, though it is only useful for sudden heart stoppage and not for terminal illness, Ebert explained.

Instead, the discussion on advance care concerns more with general theory on identifying personal values.

“Then both sides can be talking in the same language,” Ebert said. “It’s for your parents.”

She explained that the difficulty for newer generations may be a cultural factor, recommending Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal.

“Before, [life’s] a natural up-and-down cycle,” Ebert said. “Now it’s up, then up and down in a downward trend, with more days of struggle.”

An audience member who attended the event with her mother agreed.“My generation was the uncomfortable people…older ones are the ones where death was a natural progress of life,” she said. “I don’t fit the target age group, but I wanted to come…it’s a two-sided conversation.”

Others expressed that they already had the conversation with family members. “The kids are more concerned with keeping me alive,” an attendee said.


Questions to consider


Starting with a video from The Conversation Project that asked the audience, “have you had the conversation, not the one about sex, or drugs,” and told stories from younger perspectives, Ebert introduced key questions to think about, referencing resources from Dying with Dignity Canada:

What’s important for me? Do I like to be outdoors? Read a book?

On the last day, would I like to be at home, in the hospital? What would I like to eat?

In a chronic disease, what does the timeline look like? What are the complications, and what is the natural progress?

What do you fear the most i.e. independence in expressing, eating, or thinking?

Some might say, “Please let nature progress, and bring me back only if you can bring me back to a certain quality of life,” while others might feel that the deciding moment is the inability to go to the bathroom on their own, Ebert explained.

A document that records advance care wishes is a precaution, as well as a reassurance for the family when people cannot express themselves.

“If somebody can say what they want, they say it,” she said.


Healthy aging: not just about the final days


Another piece to the story is visualizing what the next years look like — which may include keeping fit and removing unnecessary medications, Ebert explained,

“If you can keep fit, balanced, and your strength, a lot of complications can be avoided,” she said. “Purpose, it’s the key to life; volunteer? Go out? Have a hobby? Carpentry?”

For Harvey Voth, the session was informative. In the past, he discussed advance care with his parents, who were open to the subject, but with his children, there was some resistance, he said.

“A lot of people didn’t want to talk about it, but we need to talk about it,” Voth said. “[My kids] wanted us to be not thinking about it, but living.”

He likes to remain active through home maintenance and yard work, as well as helping neighbours.

“I would like to do something everyday that I can do if I want, but when I don’t want to, it’s okay as well,” Voth said. “I don’t relish sitting around and putting puzzles together.”

So far, as he trades services with neighbours, he’s amazed by those who have the skills to repair items, he added.“We’re not all the same,” Voth said. “If there’s two people who are exactly the same, one of them is not necessary.”


Looking forward


For some attendees, the concern lies in not knowing who to contact when they encounter issues at home, while others expressed the difficulty in gathering seniors together from various locations.

Ebert said the clinic is looking to establish a community administration phone number that will contact the necessary service. Meanwhile, those encountering issues in the next six months can contact the clinic.


This is part two of the Omineca Express’ article series on advance care planning; part three will highlight available resources in the community for healthy aging.


Just Posted

Grads at Riverside Park in Vanderhoof, B.C. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof celebrates 2021 graduates

NVSS grads got together at Riverside Park on Friday, June 11 in… Continue reading

Singing and drumming was heard in downtown Vanderhoof on Monday, June 14. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Photos: Honour Walk held in Vanderhoof

An honour walk was held Monday June 14 in Vanderhoof, remembering the… Continue reading

Emergency crews responded to the scene of a suspicious fire at the southeast corner of the OK Café in Vanderhoof Friday, June 11. The historic building is 101-years-old. (BC RCMP photo)
OK Café in Vanderhoof alright after suspicious fire

Damage kept to a minimum by firefighters

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
VIDEO: Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation to search residential school site for unmarked graves

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lotto Max jackpot goes unclaimed again

42 of the 64 Maxmillion prizes of $1 million were won, the majority were sold in Ontario

FILE - This July 6, 2017 file photo shows prescription drugs in a glass flask at the state crime lab in Taylorsville, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Contaminants in generic drugs may cause long-term harm to DNA: B.C. researcher

Scientist says findings suggest high volume overseas facilities require strict regulation

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., on April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Labour shortages, closed borders major obstacles to B.C. restaurant, tourism restarts

Industry expert says it won’t start to recover until international travellers can visit

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Most Read