Advanced Care Planning: Your Doctor is Key

Originally published at on March 3, 2014

Last weekend I was having coffee with a friend who is having surgery in the near future. She asked what I knew about Advanced Care Planning and asked me whether she thought her lawyer could assist. I did not hesitate to say that this is a very complex issue and while legal documentation is needed, I believe the first person to approach is the family doctor.

In our day to day travels, while many of us read blogs, posts and articles, for any particular subject, it is only when the time is upon us, that many of us choose to act. In this case, it was about completing her Advanced Directives. As readers know, this is a favorite topic for me:

End of Life Discussion – October 8, 2014

Advanced Care Planning, Alberta Style – May 5, 2014

Death & Dying, the Canadian Perspective – Nov 15, 2013

Personal Care POA -Oct. 22, 2013

Family Conflict, Part 2, Some Ways to Move Forward- Oct. 6, 2011

The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association has a terrific website that provides extensive information on understanding what Advance Care Planning is and how to make a plan. It includes steps including: when to start thinking about it; learning about end of life care options and procedures; choosing who to appoint; terms and definitions; involving others; documenting your wishes and, as well, providing answers to many commonly asked questions. Doctors are being given additional tools.

The i-GAP (Improving advance care planning in general practice) is a research project intended to increase the participation of doctors in discussing this with their patients. Participating doctors will have access to new tools and as I understand it, learn ways to improve communication with their patients and their families in discussing and addressing their key medical issues and questions.

In addition, Carenet (Canadian Researchers at the End of Life Network) is a group of health care professionals across the country working together to improve end of life care and are completing research on primary care, acute care, long term care, critical care and cancer care.

What doctors may not have is the necessary time to sit down, discuss and review and review again, the many questions that patients have. I also don’t know if/how their time is covered by the Ministry Health Insurance Plan. I hope my friend reads this blog. I look forward to your comments and to hear about your experiences.

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