VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - March 20, 2014) - BC's doctors say it is never too early to plan for end of life. A new policy paper released by Doctors of BC says that advance care planning means patients' values, goals, and wishes are known and followed, the guesswork for loved ones is removed, and doctors are able to provide the right care to their patients.
The paper, It's Time to Talk: Advance Care Planning in British Columbia, states that discussing end of life plans with those you love is a necessary part of life, but acknowledges it can also be a difficult conversation to have. Starting early and revising plans when life changes occur helps to normalize discussions and eases the process. Further, developing a plan in advance decreases the likelihood of overly aggressive treatment at end of life, relieves the burden on loved ones, and eases the bereavement process for those left behind.
"Doctors want to work as partners with their patients, and can play an important role, in helping patients prepare for end of life regardless of age, life stage or health status," says Dr David Attwell, chair of the working group that developed this paper. "All health care providers need to do a better job of letting our patients know that it's never too early to create an advanced care plan, and that helpful resources are available. Your family doctor, who knows and understands your health history, can be a great place to start this conversation."
Although patient resources are available to support advance care planning, most people don't engage in the process. It's not just for the elderly or those close to end of life. There is an opportunity to increase engagement of British Columbians and to better integrate services, so that when an advanced care plan is created doctors and family members are aware and can better support the patient.
Among the paper's recommendations are:
- Integrating advance care plans with patient records so that all health care providers know the patients' wishes.
- To encourage early planning, existing advance care planning resources be amended or expanded to increase their relevance for all British Columbians.
- Advance care planning form part of the required standard of care for patients with chronic or complex illness.
"It's important to be prepared, because you never know when a crisis may hit," adds Dr Attwell. "Developing these recommendations is part of our commitment to make a meaningful difference and provide the best quality patient care in every phase of peoples' lives."
Normalizing discussions about end of life care earlier rather than later empowers the patient, who knows this aspect of their life is planned, and will make it easier to adapt these plans over time as their health status changes.