Talking about what you want to happen when you die is not something we often do, but it is one of the most important 'Conversations that Count' in your lifetime.
This Wednesday (April 16, 2014) is "Conversations that Count Day" – a national awareness day to encourage people to think, talk about and plan for their future health and end of life care, known as Advance Care Planning.
Jane Goodwin, Canterbury DHB Advance Care Plan coordinator, says it's about discussing the things which are most important to you should you die.
"Most people think Advance Care Plans are something for older people or for those who are dying – and while it's really important for these people to have them, there's no harm in starting the conversation at any age and in fact the earlier you start the better," Jane says.
"Conversations that Count is about having a chat with your friends and family and letting them know what it is you would like to have happen at the end of your life. For example, it's discussing everything from what's important to you as you get older to whether you want to be an organ donor."
Once developed, an Advance Care Plan can be stored alongside a patient's medical records, making it easier for health professionals to make treatment and care decisions about their patients, especially when they are unable to speak for themselves.
Peter Dixon, from Christchurch, says having a Conversation that Counts and making an Advance Care Plan is something everyone needs to do, whether they are healthy or not.
Peter is in chronic renal failure and so for Peter and his family making decisions about what type of medical care and intervention he wishes to receive at the end of his life are real-life questions he is dealing with now.
"I've had a lot of discussions about what I want to happen at the end of my life with my family, and having the advance care plan is giving me peace of mind that the medical profession aren't going to intervene at the end of my life against my wishes," Peter says.
This is the first time a national day has been held in New Zealand and to help kiwis get behind Conversations that Count Day. People are encouraged to visit the website www.conversationsthatcount.org.nz and download and send postcards to their friends and family members to help them to 'start the conversation'.
The day is being coordinated by the National Advance Care Planning co-operative which has more than 800 members from many organisations across New Zealand. Events and talks are also being held across the country by nurses, General Practitioners (GPs) and other health professionals who are increasingly being trained in this important area.
The South Island Alliance is a member of the co-operative working to support the promotion of Advance Care Planning across the South Island through its Health of Older People Service Level Alliance (HOPSLA).
Dr Jenny Keightley, Canterbury-based GP and Chair of HOPSLA, says it's particularly important people living with chronic health conditions and progressive illnesses have the opportunity to discuss their health care options for the future and to express their own values and choices during conversations with doctors and nurses about their treatment.
"Through HOPSLA, South Island DHBs are working together to achieve standardised documentation for advance care planning and to ensure that dedicated training is made available to health professionals across the South Island to support more widespread use of this important tool," Dr Keightley says.
For more information contact Amy Milne, Canterbury DHB Media Advisor on 027 502 7523
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