March 22, 2022

National Advance Care Planning Week

This week is National Advance Care Planning Week (21-27 March). To mark the occasion, James Watt, the Program Manager for Advance Care Planning at Northern Health, spoke with one of his patients, Else Tombs, to find out her reasons for writing an Advance Care Directive.

Else is a strong voice for the benefits of Advance Care Planning. Her experiences, including 42 years working as a nurse, provided strong motivation to ensure her values and healthcare preferences are honoured, if a time comes when she isn’t able to speak for herself.

James first met Else at her home with her granddaughter in May 2021 and assisted her with the process of Advance Care Planning. This included thinking and talking about her future healthcare preferences, writing an Advance Care Directive and appointing a Medical Treatment Decision Maker.

Else says she first made the decision when her sister was given only six weeks to live.

“My sister and I were close. She didn’t want to prolong her life and refused some of the treatments. I also saw what happened to my husband when he died. He was suffering and he would have wanted to go sooner. Watching that was terrible. I wouldn’t let them do that to him now – I would have said to let him go with dignity.”

“We had someone come and talk to us at my seniors group about Advance Care Planning. I asked my niece to help me fill in the forms.”

Then, about five years later, she contacted James to help her update her documents.

Else says despite being reminded of her sister and husband, she felt better once she had completed the plan, “It had to be done,” she says.

Else has this advice to those considering Advance Care Planning, “You have to have a plan if you want your wishes known.”

“National Advance Care Planning Week is the perfect time to start a conversation with loved ones about what’s important to you,” adds James.

“Not everyone will want to write an Advance Care Directive but I believe it’s important we share our values and preferences with our loved ones, so they are well equipped to make healthcare decisions for us in the future if we are unable to do so ourselves.”

If you’d like to learn how to have more effective Advance Care Planning conversations with your own family and with your patients, visit the Northern Health Advance Care Planning intranet pages for further information and staff education opportunities.

Featured image: Else Tombs with James Watt