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Make a plan for medical decisions

What health care do you want to receive at the end of your life or if you are gravely ill? What if you aren't able to speak for yourself?

These are the important questions that the Cranbrook Kimberley Hospice Society is asking people to consider around Advanced Care Planning Day on April 16.

Studies have shown that less than 50 per cent of Canadians have discussed their wishes for their end of life care with their family or friends.

"Advanced Care Planning is clarifying our thoughts and values and writing down the kind of treatment we want when we are not able to speak for ourself," said Don Davidson, president of the society.

The provincial government has launched a program called "My Voice" which helps people draft documents that outline the kind of treatment they do or do not want in the future.

"It's designed so that you don't have to be a lawyer to complete it," said Davidson.

"It's a fairly straightforward, step-by-step process the government has laid out."

To explain that program and help people fill out forms on advanced care planning, the hospice society is holding a series of presentations this month and next.

There will be five sessions.

• Wednesday, April 16, 7 to 9 p.m., Cranbrook Public Health Unit

• Thursday, April 24, 7 to 9 p.m., Kimberley campus of College of the Rockies

• Thursday, May 1, 7 to 9 p.m., Jaffray Community Centre

• Sunday, May 4, 7 to 9 p.m., Wasa Lake Community Centre

• Wednesday, May 14, 7 to 9 p.m., Moyie Community Hall.

Davidson said that, although it's not a fun topic, it's an important one.

"People think this is kind of morbid. But our generation has always wanted to have a say in what happens to us. This is our last chance. This is your way to make sure you can control what happens even if you can't speak on your own behalf."

The medical system is designed to take any and all measures to keep a person alive.

"That's what happens if you don't think about it beforehand and tell people. That's what the system is designed to do," said Davidson.

Advanced care planning gives people the chance to spell out their wishes in a medical crisis.

"It's designed to encourage people to think about what they are prepared to live without if they accept heroic measures."

It's important to consider that without a plan, your family may be making decisions on your behalf without knowing your wishes.

"At some point in time, if you can't speak, health care workers will have to turn to your family to make these decisions," said Davidson, mentioning surgery or being placed on a ventilator as possible decisions.

"It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see how that could cause problems for your family."

The advanced care planning sessions are free, and refreshments will be served. There won't be time to take each person who attends the sessions through the forms and documents individually; instead, the session will be more of an overview. However, the hospice society does have volunteers who will visit people and help them go through the process one-on-one.

For more information, you can contact Cranbrook Kimberley Hospice Society at 250-417-2019 or hospice1@telus.net.

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