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Planning for a time when you cannot represent yourself

Posted Apr 16th, 2019

Planning for a time when you cannot represent yourself

To Valeri Koski, a patient at Niagara Health’s Walker Family Cancer Centre, advance care planning is about making sure your wishes about end-of-life care are known and respected.

“Being able to talk about it helps. It’s all about what you want,” Valeri said. “It’s good to take care of that in advance and I’ve told my family what I want.” 

April 16 is National Advance Care Planning Day. The Palliative Care Clinic team at the Walker Family Cancer Centre is creating awareness around the importance of reflecting on and discussing decisions made at the end of life.

“Planning ahead for decisions about your care is important to do while you are still able to speak for yourself,” said Dr. Katrin Conen, a palliative care physician at the cancer centre.

Building a Team

Coordinating our future care can involve a team of people. This can include people who are close to the patient, in addition to experienced healthcare providers. It is important for a patient to take the time to decide who will make up their team.

“They care about you,” Valeri said of the Palliative Care Clinic Team. “We talk about parts of my life that aren’t part of treatment. Then, the next time they see me, they remember and they ask you about it.”

There are also many resources available to help make a plan, like the Speak Up website, or a new pamphlet available through the Palliative and Supportive Care team.

The team can help with advance care planning, and they also work with patients and oncologists to assist with things like:

  • Symptom management: pain, nausea/vomiting, constipation/diarrhea etc.
  • Psychosocial support
  • Home and community care referrals
  • Involvement of family members in meetings
  • Developing a care plan than ensures the goals of the patient are being met
  • End-of-life care planning, transition to community/home care services
  • To share the relationship and care between the patient, family physician, Walker Family Cancer Centre physicians and community healthcare providers

Raising awareness about advance care planning

Palliative care offers a holistic approach for all symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment. Palliative care supports the patient and family needs during the journey of an advanced cancer disease. 

When palliative and supportive care is involved earlier in the treatment plan of patients with advanced cancer, it can lead to improved quality of life and emotional wellbeing for patients and families. With this patient-centred approach, patients and families are empowered to manage and navigate their care more actively. 

From April 16 to 18, the Palliative and Supportive Care team will have a display in the Walker Family Cancer Centre to share promotional material and printed resources for patients and families visiting the centre.

For more information on advance care planning, check out the Speak Up website or go to the Palliative and Supportive Care Clinic’s page.

Niagara Health System