Food, family, love and important conversations

Discussing what matter most

Kate is a community ambassador and volunteer with Advance Care Planning Australia. Drawing on a background in nursing, education and law, Kate provides guidance to people on advance care planning.

We sat down to talk with Kate about her volunteering and the role family, friends and carers can play when looking to plan ahead for future health care. Kate has her own advance care directive in place and she shares how she has approached advance care planning conversations with her own family. 

Tips for talking with loved ones about advance care planning

Kate has spoken with many people who are struggling to bring up the topic of advance care planning conversation with their families. She has suggested one way to start a conversation is to share food and invite people over for dinner – an approach she has used with her own family.

Kate suggests a family meal can be a great ice breaker for more difficult conversations.  “We have my children and grandchildren over regularly for dinner. I’m currently teaching my grandchildren how to cook – the last thing we made was a pavlova,”she says.

Kate recalls meeting a woman who had recently been told by her oncologist that she had run out of treatment options for her illness. During their conversation the woman eventually opened up and let Kate know that she was yet to share the news with her family. “It felt like perhaps I was a test-run, and she needed to be able to say it out loud to someone.”

Moments like these highlight the importance of being able to share our experiences with people who can listen and are open. 

Advance care planning is for everyone

Kate encourages people of all ages to think and talk about their future medical preferences, regardless of their current health. Having an advance care plan in place means you’re ready for life’s unexpected events.

Kate is pleased that her own daughter has an advance care plan which she developed just before she had surgery. Kate says it’s not unusual for people to consider advance care planning during a time when they need surgery or receive a medical diagnosis, however she is of the view that discussions about future health care should be part of everyday life.

“We suggest allowing plenty of time to think. Also allow time to get families to accept that this is what you are going to do, and that your wishes matter,” says Kate. “On the way to the hospital isn’t an ideal time to talk. In an emergency situation, realistically you might not be able to communicate, so you really want a plan before you ever might need one.” 

"On the way to the hospital isn’t an ideal time to talk. In an emergency situation, realistically you might not be able to communicate, so you really want a plan before you ever might need one.”
Kate,
Community ambassador and volunteer, Advance Care Planning Australia

Choosing someone you can trust to speak for you

Kate suggests thinking about what living well mean to you and clearly communicate this to your loved ones. Then consider who you would choose to speak for you, if you couldn’t speak for yourself.

 “When thinking about who to appoint, be sure to choose someone on your wavelength, someone who would respect your wishes no matter what,” says Kate.

Advance care planning requirements differ across Australia. Be sure to refer to the advance care planning forms and documentation relevant to your state or territory.