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By Wendy Johnstone

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“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, *The Hobbit*

This quote reminds me of my mom. No, she isn’t a dragon, well, not literally, anyway. Figuratively, she has, however, drilled in me the importance of planning for potential dragon attacks.

Mom is one of those people that loves to plan. So, it would make sense that she would appreciate and value the importance of advance care planning, right?

Nope! Despite having a gerontologist for a daughter and an equal in her passion for planning, my mom is reluctant to engage in discussions on advanced care planning.

She’s not alone. About 50 per cent of Canadians have never talked to family and friends about what they’d want if they were ill and could not speak for themselves.

Advance care planning isn’t just for seniors or those facing a critical illness. A process of thinking about and sharing your wishes for future health and personal care, it’s for everyone, including family caregivers, the young and the healthy. Legislation in BC allows us to choose the type of care we want, if we can’t speak for ourselves. We can appoint someone to be our voice when ours is silenced. We can have someone make sure our values and beliefs around our care and death are respected.

From thinking and sharing, the next part of advance care planning is writing down your wishes and instructions for future health care. Appointing someone to be a substitute decision maker is part of your plan. An advance care plan can also include a representation agreement, an advanced health care directive and an enduring Power of Attorney.

And although talking about our demise and death isn’t always top of mind or something to bring up at the next big social event, it’s important to consider that the topic of advance care planning is just as much about living as it is about dying.

Yes, it may be a little uncomfortable, at first. Family caregivers, younger generations and seniors will agree: the first conversation is often the hardest. For many, it can be a relief to have a place to express and document our preferences.

Directing our care, if we cannot speak, is a gift – to ourselves and the people who care about us.

And remember, it is never too early to start the conversation… but it can be too late!

The best place to start is by going to Speak Up at


march 2017 INSPIRED senior living


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