Today Rhonda Oliver of Advocacy in Barnet provides us with food for thought:
Halloween is looming – rooted in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, it marks the end of Summer and the harvest, and the beginning of the cold dark winter associated with human death, when the boundary between the living and the dead becomes blurred.
According to the Office of National Statistics more people die in winter than in summer and the Grim Reaper pays most house calls in December, January and February. So, if you do not want to think about death and dying, look away now!
Is there a right time to have an advance care plan? Who should have one? What should it cover?
A care plan is for anyone, with increasing relevance for older people who are likely to be nearing the end of their lives. However, it could be for someone who has particular health needs or someone who just wants to record their choices and preferences for their care and treatment for any other reason.
It is a good idea not to leave this until a crisis happens when you may not be able to participate in making choices. In an emergency health professional may have to make rapid decisions about your treatment and a care plan can help to ensure that you get the treatment that is best for you and that you would have wanted.
A care plan is created through conversations with your family and carers, your health professionals and you. You keep the plan with you and ensure that it will be available immediately in an emergency, say to ambulance crews, out-of-hours doctors, accident & emergency and other hospital staff if you are admitted. Some people keep their care plan displayed on their fridge door; others leave it inside the fridge in a plastic bag! This is often the first place an ambulance crew will look.
The plan will guide clinicians to balance the priorities for your care, i.e. would you want them to focus on treatment to prolong life or to focus mainly on providing comfort? The plan should include your choices regarding treatments that you would want to be considered for or those you would not want, for example would you want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)? If the answer to this is no then you should flag an advance decision to refuse treatment (DNR) or any other important planning documents in the plan. It is very important that your understand the parameters and implications of an advance decision to refuse treatment and that you discuss this with your GP and family.
Talk to your local advocacy organisation if you are thinking about your future care. It will support you to make your choices and preferences heard.
Once you care plan is made it is not set in stone and should be reviewed on a regular basis. It should, however, provide you with peace of mind so you can cuddle up on the sofa with your loved ones, with a cup of tea (or something stronger), watch the telly and wait for spring.
Rhonda Oliver, Project Manager, Barnet Macmillan Cancer Advocacy & Advocacy in Barnet