Advance care planning made a lot of sense to Dale. It gave her a sense of control. She could see the benefit in making sure her family, her doctors and everyone caring for her, had clear guidance about what care she wanted, at the point where hard decisions had to be made.
It’s ok to have questions
Before Dale was able to commit anything to paper she needed to do her research. For Dale, advance care planning triggered a lot of questions which she explored with her doctors. She wanted to know about the different scenarios and the likely progression of her cancer. Her doctors were so patient and caring with Dale. They were really tough conversations but her doctors handled this so respectfully. I think it helped Dale knowing that she had all the facts she needed to help her make informed decisions and to create a plan that best reflected her wishes.
It’s about family
We are a close knit family that is used to doing things together, so advance care planning was a chance to get the family involved. Dale was remarkably open about talking about her values and at what point she would opt for less aggressive treatment with me and our daughter, Lisa. We spent time around the kitchen table helping Dale complete the form. I remember there was a lot of discussion and the odd moment of laughter, mixed with some sadness. It just felt right that we could do this together and support each other.
Dale appointed me as her substitute decision-maker so she had peace-of-mind that I could step in, should her health deteriorate quickly.
It helps others know how to care for you
In Dale’s final weeks she was admitted to a palliative care unit. The nurses and hospital staff were almost relieved when we arrived with Dale’s Advance Care Directive with clear instructions on what she wanted and who was empowered to make her decisions if she was unable to. They commented on how much easier and clearer it was to provide appropriate care when these things had been resolved ahead of time.
It can inspire others
Having lived through this experience with Dale and my family, I’m very passionate about advance care planning. For us, advance care planning meant that Dale’s final weeks were relatively calm and filled with the things that were important to her – her children, friends and grandkids. Just as she had written in her plan, her pain and other symptoms were managed, making it easier for all of us to be there and say our goodbyes.
While I am in relative good health myself, I have written my own Advance Care Directive and have encouraged others to do the same. Through friends I have seen what can go wrong when there is no plan - the disagreements, the stress, the uncertainty- it really is no way to die. At a time when everyone should be pulling together, I’ve seen families pulled apart as everyone tries to guess what their loved one would want. Advance care planning puts a stop to all the guessing.
It doesn’t mean giving up hope
I think for some people with cancer, they might feel that advance care planning is the final step or what you do when your treatment stops. But it’s just not true. Dale wrote her Advance Care Directive while she was still having cancer treatment. She was not giving up and she didn’t lose hope. Dale continued to plan holidays and adventures which she enjoyed all the more because she knew that if anything happened that she had her plan in place.
† Advance care planning documents can have different names depending on the state or territory. Find forms
for your location >