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Why Advance Care Planning is important

Written by: Renee Comerford - 13th November 2020

Renee Comerford, Head of Frailty Services at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust, believes we should all be open and prepared to talk about death. She wants people to use an ‘Advance Care Plan’ for the sake of their families and carers, as well as for their own peace of mind.

My gran has donated her body to medical science. She wishes to be cared for in her own home and has all the relevant plans in place for when that time comes. She’s booked a meal for after the funeral for the family, and she checks her arrangements every year. She’s comfortable talking about it all – and she’s always been so.

We all eventually have to come to terms with the fact that we are going to die and hope that we will have a good death. For most this means in our sleep, or peacefully, which I think means comfortably, calmly, in surroundings of our choice, having made our peace.

There is an argument, and evidence, that everyone should plan well in advance while we are still fit and healthy, because life is unpredictable. The planning can be as early as a person wishes, and if we were a society which talked more openly and easily around a rather taboo subject, maybe we would.

‘Advance Care Planning’ is important to everyone. It’s a process whereby adults can identify their values and preferences for future health and social care in the event that they cannot speak for themselves.

The first step is to be open and talk about death and dying and your thoughts and preferences: these wishes need to be documented so everyone significant to you is aware of them in an Advance Care Plan, or ACP.

Having an ACP is a gift for your family – it allows them to make choices based on your wishes.

We encourage you to have these conversations earlier rather than later. A well-informed patient is a healthier patient and advance care planning is simply a component of that. Being able to understand the patient’s view on as many points as possible allows healthcare professionals to provide patient-focused care. If we know your wishes we can act as your advocate when you are unable to voice your wishes.

Advance care planning helps people at any age take charge of their future medical and social care. We plan everything else in our life yet we skip around how important it is to plan our end. We can all have a good death if we take charge of what we would like. Having conversations with those important to us, and documenting it is essential.

Empowering someone to determine the manner of their own good death and enabling this to happen is one of the most important and rewarding roles of any carer.

Please take charge of your future care planning. You can get an advance care plan online, through your GP, Age UK, Dementia UK, Social care, community services and palliative care etc.

In it you can detail what you want to happen at your funeral, where your will is kept, if you wish your religious beliefs to be taken into account in your care, whether you would like your last days to be at home, in hospital or in a hospice, and many other things. The plan is not a legal document and you can change it at any time, but it helps you to outline your wishes and to remember things you might otherwise have forgotten. It makes it so much easier for your family and carers and friends.