Con­ver­sa­tions we’re dy­ing to avoid

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

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.

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