WDHB to celebrate Advanced Care Plans on 'Conversations that Count Day'

9 April 2014
The Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) will mark ‘Conversations that Count Day’ on 16 April with an on-air discussion between Whanganui GP Alan Mangan, WDHB Māori Health Service clinical manager Rihi Karena and Mediaworks breakfast co-host Sue Miller.
Dr Mangan and Mrs Karena will discuss why it’s important for people of all ages to develop Advanced Care Plans (ACPs) to let family members and clinicians know how they wish to be cared leading up to their death. Both say it’s one of the most important conversations any of us can have.

The WDHB and Whanganui Regional Health Network (WRHN) have been promoting Advanced Care Planning since late 2011 intent on encouraging people to open up and have a conversation some people don’t find easy says WDHB aged care & rehabilitation services strategic advisor Jennie Fowler.

“But having said that, a survey conducted in 2012 showed 77 percent of participants were comfortable thinking and talking about how they would wish to be cared for leading up to their death and furthermore, they were grateful for having the opportunity to discuss this important issue with their friends, whānau/family and health professionals,” Mrs Fowler says.

“It’s particularly pleasing when people say they think we should all start talking about our end-of-life plans before becoming sick,” Mrs Fowler says. “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 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 is not always the reason why a person dies, anyone over 45 should talk about drawing up an Advanced Care Plan and consider this a normal conversation to have with one’s family.
“It’s certainly very helpful for doctors to be guided as to a patient’s wishes in the last phase of their lives,” Dr Mangan says. “But this is only possible if discussion has been held with the patient and their family prior to end-of-life illness occurring. While clinicians will always try and make the best decisions for patients and their families in all circumstances, 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.”
For those interested in planning for the future, Advanced Care Plan forms can be downloaded from www.advancecareplanning.org.nz. Once completed, people are advised to give them to their GP who will forward them Wanganui 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.

Mrs Fowler and Dr Mangan will be two of the many WDHB and WRHN staff who have volunteered to man an ACP booth being placed in Wanganui Hospital’s Main Entrance on April 16. It’s hoped many staff and visitors will take time to stop and engage in a conversation as to why planning ahead for our end of life care is so important.