Advanced care planning starts with a conversation

Chilliwack presentation hopes to answer: ‘Is there such a thing as a good death?’

Death may be the only true certainty in life, however most of us still do a pretty poor job at planning for it.

Local physicians are hoping to change that.

They want Chilliwack residents to know that there are answers available, and that a good place to start is with a chat with your family doctor.

Next week, doctors who are taking part in this year’s “Mini Med School” program are offering an evening dedicated to changes and advances in end-of-life care.

Titled, “Is there such a think as ‘a good death?’” the program hopes to shed some light on some of the changes that have occurred in they way the medical profession deals with death.

“The main goal of all the Mini Med Schools is to educate,” says Dr. Kate  MacDonald, one of the presenters.  “We want to educate people about end of life medicine, how it’s different from other medicine, and also how important it is.”

That effort is part of a growing trend in the medical community.

Doctors of BC recently released a paper, titled “It’s Time to Talk: Advance Care Planning in British Columbia.” The paper argues that physicians are an integral partner in end-of-life planning. The paper recognizes that discussing end of life plans with those you love is a necessary part of life, but acknowledges it can also be a difficult conversation to have. Starting early and revising plans when life changes occur helps to normalize discussions and eases the process. Further, developing a plan in advance decreases the likelihood of overly aggressive treatment at end of life, relieves the burden on loved ones, and eases the bereavement process for those left behind.

“Doctors want to work as partners with their patients, and can play an important role, in helping patients prepare for end of life regardless of age, life stage or health status,” says Dr. David Attwell, chair of the working group that developed the paper. “All health care providers need to do a better job of letting our patients know that it’s never too early to create an advanced care plan, and that helpful resources are available. Your family doctor, who knows and understands your health history, can be a great place to start this conversation.”

The first stage in that conversation can begin at the Mini Med talk which takes place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on Tuesday, April 1.

Dr. MacDonald will be joined by Dr. Kara Schneider and Dr. Liz Watson. Also on available will be Colleen Rush, education co-ordinator with the Chilliwack Hospice Society.

The panel will discuss the shift in culture and education that has occurred in the field of end-of-life care over recent years – a shift has helped normalize the dialogue surrounding an admittedly difficult and sensitive topic.

Resources are available to help individuals and their families plan, said Dr. MacDonald, through Fraser Health, the Chilliwack Hospice Society and their family physician.

The public needs to know, said Dr. MacDonald, that there is support available. “No one should ever die in pain, anxious or in any discomfort if we know that death is coming and can plan for it.”

The Mini Med School “Is there such a thing as a good death?” is 7-9 p.m. at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre, 9201 Corbould Street. No registration is required for this free presentation. Light refreshments and snacks will be served.

The Mini Med School series is jointly sponsored by the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice and Chilliwack Economic Partners.

For more information, call 604.702.4757.