Jim has lived a very full life.
At 92, he is still incredibly active – he is a hands-on great grandfather and a community volunteer.
He’s not thinking about the end of his life, at least not yet. And he certainly wasn’t worried about that 20 years ago when he made his advance care plan.
An Advance Care Directive is a written record of a person’s preferences for future health care. The directive records their goals, values, beliefs and health care preferences.
At 62, Jim had planned for everything. In a simple folder, he had all his vital paperwork; such as birth and marriage certificates, and an Advance Care Directive.
Jim saw how having a directive could not only have benefits for himself, but for his family and carers, and any health or aged care worker he may come across in the future.
In his plan Jim explained how he wanted to be treated should he ever find himself in hospital.
“Basically, he didn’t want medical intervention – no tubes, machines or anything attached to his body. He didn’t like the thought of people seeing him unwell or not being able to recognise his great-grandchildren,” says Lorraine.
Jim has nominated Lorraine, his eldest daughter, to be his substitute decision-maker.
“It’s important to choose someone who lives nearby and is confident to speak up at the right time. In our family, I’m probably seen as the most reliable – or bossy – and I have experience working in the aged-care sector. In many ways, I’m a lot like dad,” says Lorraine.
Lorraine says that Jim liked to remind everyone about his choices every chance he got, which made it easier for the whole family to understand his wishes.
A sudden turn
“On the Saturday, he was driving his car and running bingo at the local RSL, and on Monday he looked decidedly unwell and we were taking him to hospital,” said Lorraine.
It was especially scary when the doctor broke the news to the family that she was unsure whether Jim was going to survive the next 24 hours.
Jim had severe pneumonia.
The doctor asked Jim’s worried family if they had ever discussed his preferences for emergency medical treatment.
This was where Lorraine stepped up as the substitute decision-maker and informed the doctor Jim had an Advance Care Directive.
“In that moment, I saw her shoulders relax and it just opened up the lines of communication,” Lorraine described the relieved doctor.
In accordance to Jim’s wishes, he was kept very comfortable. It was a challenging time for the family, but they found comfort in knowing that they were doing what Jim wanted, they had some peace of mind.
In clearly documenting his wishes, Jim helped ease the burden for his family during a difficult time.
“Dad just talked and talked to everyone about end-of-life matters – to my mum, to my brother and his wife, and even to my children and their cousins.”
“Sometimes, we rolled our eyes at him, or we got into lively conversations over certain details. But his wishes were always fresh in our minds, and we were all on the same page. In many ways, he was ahead of his time discussing death so openly.”
A week after Jim was admitted to hospital; he died surrounded by his family and loved ones. Jim’s preparedness to proactively plan for his future health care has inspired Lorraine to do the same.
Lorraine admits that though she’s fit and healthy and hopes to have years ahead of her, she is a lot like her father and is fully prepared, “I’ve got a folder containing all my bits and pieces, just like dad did.”
Next week marks the first National Advanced Care Planning Week and the perfect opportunity to start the conversation with your loved ones about what matters to you. Visit the website for details – acpweek.org.au.