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Talking Turkey about Palliative and End of Life Care

The holiday season is a time when family members, loved ones, and those most important to us get together and share great food and conversation. Over time, our health and needs may change related to our life stages, and we plan and prepare for them through our conversations with others. We often talk about, and plan for, the positive and the acceptable events in our life, but less often about situations such as illness or injury.

Whenever we get together, there is opportunity to have meaningful discussions about health care wishes and choices, and other plans such as where we want to receive care and by whom. If you or your family member has a worsening incurable illness, you should know more about palliative care programs and services which can help with your planning needs and with care options. Planning today makes sure that your wishes are known, no matter what the future holds, and it can reduce the amount of stressful decisions that others will have to make for you if you cannot make them for yourself.

Most Albertans will benefit from some degree of Palliative and End of Life care services in their life time. This could be symptom care, supporting you at home or in a hospice setting, or providing other practical needs that help you and your family have a better quality of life. It is important that we discuss these options early with our family but also with our health care teams or family physician. This way we are all planning in the same direction for your care, based on your choices.

If something happened to you and you couldn’t speak for yourself, what type of care would you want? How would others know what your wishes and values are? Albertans have a process to help with these future plans called ‘Advance Care Planning’ which can support your wishes in a shared plan with those close to you and your heath care team – it is what you want and not what others may ‘think’ you want.
Advance Care Planning is just one part of future planning and should be done early, while you are still healthy. Ultimately, it allows your family or close friends to know what kind of care you would want, and may bring comfort and peace of mind to you, your family, and those who have to make health care decisions on your behalf. Take the time this holiday season to have the conversations.

You can check out AHS’s interactive guide to help you talk about your wishes at http://goals.conversationsmatter.ca/ or www.conversationsmatter.ca or through the AHS smartphone app (android and ios)

Things you can do:
- Learn about Advance Care Planning
- Think about your values and wishes for your health care now and in the future
- Talk with those who you are close to about your values and wishes
- Discuss your wishes with your health care provider
- Consider naming an alternate decision maker or agent
- Complete your personal directive

What if one of my family members has been told that they have a life-limiting illness? What resources are available to me and my family?
Check out Alberta’s website at: https://myhealth.alberta.ca/palliative-care and learn about:
- What is Palliative and End of Life Care? (PEOLC)
- How do I find services where I live?
- What to expect when a loved one is nearing the end of life
- Find out about coping with grief and getting the help you need
- Read stories about how Palliative and End of Life Care is making a difference for Albertans from the time of diagnosis to the time near death, to bereavement