How do you want to die?

David Pope -
David Pope
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How do you want to die?

The answer to that question is something David Pope, a Mill Bay lawyer and Cowichan Valley Hospice volunteer, hopes people share with their loved ones. It's not an easy topic so Pope is going to help get the conversation started.

"Talking about being incapacitated is something we tend to avoid in our culture, much the same as talking about dying. Intellectually we know we're all going to die. We are hoping we will be completely capable until our last day and die in our sleep."

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Pope said this is why sharing your choices for future health care treatment and arranging your finances is so useful.

"I want people to start talking about what their wishes might be if the were incapable of expressing themselves. And I want to ensure they know what the options are."

Pope is speaking on this topic at the Cowichan Hospice's Advanced Care Planning Information Session at the Oceanfront Suites in Cowichan Bay on Sept 27 at 7 p.m.

Gretchen Hartley, hospice's executive director, explained advanced care planning is a process of making your personal preferences around your healthcare treatments known in the event that you are incapable of communicating your wishes.

Hartley said the island's aging demographic is the reason these issues are coming to the fore. But this topic isn't just for the elderly. At the information session, Pope hopes to help people of all ages understand their  options.

"I'm hoping to reach a variety of people: those who are aging and thinking this may be happening to themselves, and children who have parents who are becoming aged. It's about building a level of trust."

Pope is concerned people will avoid making plans, which impacts the people who make decisions about a person's life.

"What happens if you do nothing? It seems to be the easiest path to take. But if we become incapable of making our own decision, then it's necessary for someone to make a court application to be a guardian for that person. That can an expensive and somewhat involved process and not something you want to have your loved ones deal with in an emergency."

Pope said you can avoid the court application by setting things up in advance, such as a power of attorney for financial matters, appointing a representative to make healthcare decisions for you, and finding an advanced directive for health care. As of Sept 2011, an amendment to a British Columbia statute enabled advanced directives to become an enforceable document.

"We used to do a living will, which set out your wishes but it wasn't enforceable. It was down to the health service provider's best judgement." With an advanced directive, health care providers must honour an individual's  choices.

Hartley said this is a conversation all of us should be having.

"Most of us have wills and many have gone so far to plan their funerals. This is about starting a conversation with people who love and care about you to decide what kind of healthcare you would like. It can happen to any of us at any time."

Call 701-4242 to reserve a seat at the Advanced Care Planning information session. Refreshments will be served.



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