Dying Matters Awareness Week: Planning for the future

Monday, 08 May 2017

Morwenna Hitchens is a Consultant in Palliative Medicine at Prospect Hospice. In this blog, she explores the importance of planning for the future.

It is important for us all to plan for the future, but this is especially true if we were to be diagnosed with a life limiting illness. It can be difficult to consider what we may want for ourselves if we were to lose capacity to make decisions about our care, but it can be empowering to know we can have some control over this. Many people have not discussed their wishes with friends and family, even fewer have written anything down to support their wishes.

A term you may have heard before is Advance Care Planning. This can help an individual and those involved in their care understand what is important to them. Although it is aimed at people with life limiting conditions, anyone can do this. We should all be thinking about planning how we would like to be cared for in the future and having discussions with those who are important to us.

The ‘Planning Your Future Care – Advance Care Planning’ booklet was launched in Swindon during Dying Matters Week in 2015. When people are referred to our team here at Prospect Hospice, it is something we encourage everyone to complete. The booklet allows you to record preferences and wishes on how you are cared for. Many of us may have thought about and may have strong views on whether we would want to buried or cremated and what music we would want played at our funeral, but how many of us have shared those views with our family, carers or friends? The booklet has five main sections – statement of wishes and care preferences; advance decision making; putting your affairs in order; making a will; and funeral planning. You can fill out the sections helpful to you and add to it over time. You don’t have to fill in every section. It is your document to keep at home but it is important to let your family/carers and health professionals involved in your care know that you have written it and what it says. You can get a copy from your GP practice or through the team at Prospect Hospice.

When putting affairs in order, some people decide to appoint someone to make decisions on their behalf, if at some point in the future they are unable to make decisions for themselves. That person is given Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). There are two different types of LPA - Property and Financial Affairs, which covers decisions about money and property and Health and Welfare which covers decisions about health and personal welfare. There is a £82 application fee to register each LPA. You can choose to apply for one or both. The person chosen can be a friend, relative or a professional and you can appoint more than one attorney. Further information is available on the Office of Public Guardian website – www.lastingpowerofattorney.service.gov.uk/home.

Another thing you may consider is your wishes regarding possible organ donation. Many patients with cancer are not aware that they are able to do this. There are some exceptions but for many people with metastatic cancer it is possible to donate corneas. Corneas are the clear tissue at the front of our eyes and certain conditions affecting the corneas result in severely limited vision or blindness. It is a very personal decision and not everybody feels they can or would want to do it, however a corneal donation can restore the sight in more than one person and have a significant impact on their lives. Further information is available at www.uktransplant.org.uk.