Conversations we’re dying to avoid
It’s a conversation many would rather avoid, but planning for end-of-life care is one chat to have before it’s too late.
The national initiative, Advance Care Planning, is encouraging people to think, talk and plan for their future and what they or their loved ones want to happen at the end of their lives.
Natasha Edwards says having this conversation not only helped her come to terms with her diabetes and kidney failure but it also challenged her family’s cultures and traditions.
‘‘Before I was in denial and my self-esteem wasn’t very good,’’ she says.
‘‘It wasn’t until I read through the care plan that my life actually made sense and I accepted I have options.’’
The Advance Care Planning website has resources to help start the conversation and prepare a written plan.
Edwards will be on dialysis for the rest of her life or until she can find a suitable donor for a transplant.
The Mt Roskill resident says she faced death twice two and a half years ago.
She was born in New Zealand but her parents are from Tonga.
The 39-year-old says her family’s perspective on many matters often revolves around tradition.
‘‘Because I’m New Zealand-born it changes things slightly and I just want my family to understand these are my wishes and this is how it’s going to go,’’ she says. ‘‘They don’t have to worry about that final or medical decision if it needs to be made it’s already been taken care of. ‘‘ ‘‘They’ve just got to ensure it’s carried through, that’s all I ask.’’
Edwards says her family found it hard to come to terms with her thinking about the end of her life.
‘‘[They] said that when the time comes ‘ things will just happen.’ I told them: ‘ no, if something does happen it’s what I want.’ I don’t want them to feud and for the tradition to come into it.
‘‘It took a while for them to accept that, but as I explained it more they realised it’s a good thing.’’
Clinical leader Dr Barry Snow says because of the advanced medical technology now available, we are the first generations having to deal with these issues.
‘‘We’re getting so good at curing people but we’ve lost sight of the actual cycle of our lives,’’ he says.
‘‘The interesting thing is people are thinking about this but we know from the surveys that we’ve done that they’re waiting to be asked the question.’’
Snow says the first step in changing attitudes was to train clinicians in how to broach the subject with patients and their loved ones.
‘‘Our next step is to go to the community and say: ‘we know you want this conversation, it’s time to start and when you do want this conversation we’re ready for that’.’’
Natasha Edwards says Advance Care Planning challenged her family’s cultures and traditions.