Advance Care Planning: Common blocks and advice on getting it done 

News & Updates | April 12, 2024 | Sarah Dobec

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A photo of the cover of the new ACP kit and a road pylon

April is Advance Care Planning Month and DWDC is celebrating with an updated and improved Advance Care Planning (ACP) Kit. Death Doula Jo-Anne Haun hosts ACP workshops to help people start and complete their Advance Directives. She shared her best tips with us in this three-part blog series.

In your experience, what are the most common obstacles or blocks that people experience in the Advance Care Planning process? 

People don’t want to admit they are going to die. I often say, “Just because we talk about death and dying doesn’t mean it’s going to happen right away. I talk about winning the lottery often, but it hasn’t happened.” 

Knowledge reduces fear, and this process will help people feel more comfortable with their mortality. 

The Advance Care Planning Kit asks questions like, “Are there any treatments you would specifically refuse? For example, artificial heart simulation (CPR), a respirator or ventilator, artificial feeding, artificial hydration, antibiotics, etc.” Each of these interventions requires some understanding, so again, it takes time to gather the information to make a decision about what you do or do not want. 

For example, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), what most people know about CPR they learn on television where the survival rate is 70%. In actuality, the survival rate of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest with bystander-initiated CPR is about 10%. 1 These rates drop with age and there are complications. When we understand the treatments, we can make the best decision for ourselves. 

How do you help people push through and overcome obstacles or blocks? 

We keep it simple and ask questions like, “What does quality of life mean to you?” and we share examples like, “I can’t eat ice cream anymore” or “I can’t bounce my grandkids on my knee.” One idea leads to another and helps people paint the picture for themselves.  

I also believe that joining an Advance Care Planning workshop or doing it with a friend is very helpful. It can be an emotional experience and having others to navigate the process can make it less heavy.  

What should a person have in hand when their ACP is complete? 

You should have a completed provincial or territorial Advance Directive form, with your Substitute Decision-Maker(s) named. 

We go a little further in one of our workshops and help people create their “9-1-1 File” which would, in addition to your Advance Care Plan, have all your important passwords, critical files and things someone would need in the event you were in hospital or died. 

What should they do with these items? 

You should keep a copy and put a note on your fridge about the location so a paramedic could find them. You should give a copy to your Substitute Decision-Maker(s), your primary health care providers, your In Case of Emergency (ICE) contact, and people in your life you want to know your wishes. 

Do not put them in a safety deposit box, make them accessible. 

Download an Advance Care Planning Kit here.

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