Conversations that Count

31 March 2017

Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) will mark ‘Conversations that Count Day’ on 5 April with a morning tea at the Whanganui Regional Health Network (WRHN) for Advanced Care Plan (ACP) practitioners.


ACP practitioners from the community, Whanganui Hospital clinicians and haumoana (family/whānau navigators), GP practices, rural health centres, aged residential care, Whanganui Prison, Hospice Whanganui and churches have been invited to the morning tea.


“No matter what a person’s age or state of health, it’s never too early to start talking about the care you’d like if you could no longer make decisions for yourself,” says WDHB Allied Health associate director Jennie Fowler. “This includes talking and thinking about the following.”

  • what’s important to you
  • who you want involved in decisions about your treatment and care
  • how much treatment you want and when you’d want it to stop
  • where you want to be cared for.


Meanwhile, information is being distributed to GP practices, community organisations, legal firms, Whanganui Library and Age Concern amongst others. People can also contact WRHN older person nurse practitioner intern Rebecca Casey on 06 348 0109 or download information from the website


The WDHB and WRHN have been promoting Advance Care Planning since late 2011 to encourage people to open up and have a conversation some don’t find easy Mrs Fowler says.

“Having said that, we know others are comfortable thinking and talking about how they would wish to be cared for leading up to their death and furthermore, they’re grateful for having the opportunity to discuss this important issue with their friends, whānau/family and health professionals.

“Everyone should start thinking and talking about their future care planning before becoming unwell. It’s widely recognised that planning ahead helps us avoid hasty and emotional decisions having to be made when we’re sick, elderly, injured in accidents, or we’re family members placed in a situation where we’re having to make decisions based on what we think our loved one would want them to do.”

Mrs Fowler says there’s widespread agreement that, given illness and old age are not always the reasons why a person dies, everyone should think about future care planning and the need to draw up an Advance Care Plan. “Consider this a normal conversation to have with your family,” she says. “It’s also an important conversation to have with your lawyer when writing your will and Enduring Power of Attorney. Having an ACP assists those appointed as a person’s Enduring Power of Attorney when decision-making. It can reduce their emotional distress quite considerably.”

“While we know doctors welcome being guided as to a patient’s wishes in the last phase of their lives, this is only possible if discussion has been held with the patient and their family/whānau prior to end-of-life illness occurring. Clinicians will always try and make the best decisions for patients and their families in all circumstances, but if they are pre-informed of patients’ wishes, unnecessary interventions can be avoided and the process of dying, can be as natural as it is to be born.”

Once an ACP has been completed, people are advised to return them to their GP who will forward them to Whanganui Hospital’s Clinical Records Department where an alert is set up to let hospital staff know that a person admitted to hospital has an Advanced Care Plan in place.

Visitors walking through Whanganui Hospital’s Main Entrance on April 5 will find a static display which visitors and hospital staff are encouraged to stop and look at. Information leaflets will be available at the display.