Advance Care Planning Day: Southerners encouraged to think about what matters to them

Advance Care Planning Day: Southerners encouraged to think about what matters to them

Southern DHB and WellSouth are encouraging everyone, regardless of their age or health condition to think about, talk about and share what matters to them for their future health care for Advance Care Planning Day on Friday 5 April.

“Advance care planning is about exploring what matters to a person and can be completed by anyone at any time. Advance Care Plans are often thought to be for people at the end of life, however it also becomes important if you have some health problems, are getting older, or simply have strong views about what you do and do not want,” says Southern DHB Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Specialist and Clinical Advisor ACP, Helen Sawyer.

“This information is shared with their loved ones and healthcare teams so treatment and care plans can support what matters most to them in the event they become unable to make decisions for themselves.”

General practices, aged residential care facilities, hospitals and hospice services across the Southern Region will be displaying and distributing posters, pamphlets and information to the general public and staff to help raise awareness of the day and help prompt important conversations.

Advance care plans can be completed online at or a plan template can be downloaded to complete later.  There are also a number of free resources to help you think about and prepare your advance care plan.    

Patient Case Study

Making an Advance Care Plan (ACP) was a priority for Dunedin resident Liz Harris who suffers from a respiratory condition. Liz wants to make sure that her family and healthcare providers know what is important to her when she can no longer speak for herself and is encouraging everyone to make an ACP.

Liz’s mother didn’t have an ACP when she died and this highlighted the importance of having one in place for Liz. “We had to make decisions that we were unsure about as my mum had not told us her wishes. I don’t want that to happen to my family.” says Liz.

“For me, having an ACP in place is one of the most important things I need to do. It gives me peace of mind - it’s a gift to my family so they know my wishes and they don’t have to think about what I would have wanted.”        

ACP champion, Marryllyn Donaldson who is Musselburgh Medical Centre Practice’s Nurse Team Leader says so far about 80 patients at the Practice are in the process of completing, or have completed an ACP. Most of these patients are on the Client-Led Integrated Care (CLIC) programme which ensures patients with long term conditions get the right care, close to home, and are supported to manage their own health.

Marryllyn encourages everyone to have an ACP in place, and to start by having a conversation about completing an ACP with their healthcare professional, family, or even friends over lunch.

“Talk about what matters to you as you get older, how you want to live the rest of your life and your future healthcare needs. It’s important to know that they can complete an ACP at any age and any time – the sooner the better,” she says.

“It’s simple to complete online or with the help of a healthcare professional and it gives you peace of mind that your wishes are taken into account when you can’t speak for yourself. It doesn’t have to be completed all at once and it can be updated at any time.

“We’re here to help and we can explain details of medical treatment if a patient is very ill or injured, and discuss the benefits and risks of those treatments,” says Marryllyn.

South Island residents can now have their ACP stored with their electronic medical records and it can be shared with other clinicians if and when it is needed, for example, if a patient is in hospital seriously ill or injured.

“Having a single, consistent, easy-to-use electronic form provides peace of mind. If someone falls sick outside their hometown, their ACP is available and recognisable to everyone involved in their care. No matter where they are in the South Island, their wishes will be respected,” says WellSouth Clinical Services Manager, Katrina Braxton.


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