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Planning for the tough decisions

Liz Garden and Rod Garden have different plans for where to live and find healthcare when the other one dies. Rod wants to be cared for at home, and dreams of continuing to fish, while Liz would be happier with a resthome. PHOTO/GERALD FORD.

By Gerald Ford

Masterton couple Rod and Liz Garden were nominated recently by Wairarapa District Health Board as examples of those who have had “conversations that count” about healthcare towards the end of their lives.

Today, April 5, is “Conversations That Count Day”, in which health boards around the country are encouraging people to think and talk about “advanced care planning” for difficult health decisions.

Wairarapa District Health Board is doing its bit with an awareness campaign, according to spokeswoman Anna Cardno.

Ms Cardno said older people can start to think about “what they want their family to be aware of” in the event they become seriously ill.

“Some people are positive they don’t want to die in hospital,” Ms Cardno said.

“Some people are equally positive they don’t want to be at home.”

People can start to talk with their families about these things, with one option being a written “advanced care plan” which outlines a person’s wishes ahead of time.

“It’s your plan, it can be changed at any time,” Ms Cardno.

“It’s having something that is a decision you make now, while you can, in the event you might not be able to.”

The Gardens saw the Wairarapa District Health Board advanced care display at a recent Wairarapa expo, and Mr Garden said he thought “well, we’d better sort some of this stuff”.

Mr Garden is 77 and Mrs Garden 72, “so we qualify as old farts”, Mr Garden said.

They phoned up their son, 49, who lives in Napier, and daughter 46, who is in Christchurch, and arranged a time where both could come and visit them.

The talk started with Mr Garden commission his son, a builder, to do his coffin.

“He said ‘I could probably fix you up in a one-ply’,” Mr Garden said.

“That set the tone for a very sensible conversation … Neither of our kids had really thought through the complications.”

The talk covered the events of both a sudden death and of them becoming too unwell to make decisions for themselves.

Mr and Mrs Garden had set up Enduring Power of Attorney in the latter case they become unable to make decision for themselves, with one of their children the EPA for medical decisions and the other for financial.

Each will still make decisions for the other, however, as long as they themselves are able.

“Liz would know what was best for me,” Mr Garden said.

Each has also planned for when the other won’t be around. Mrs Garden said she has a disability, with lameness in one leg, and she is “happy to go into resthome care if I get even frailer.”

Mr Garden feels differently and would want to remain at home for as long as possible even if it meant help was sent in.

“This is my turangawaewae (place to stand),” he said of their home.

“They’ll have to drag me out of here. I’ll just watch television for days and days.”

Both have decided on a do not resuscitate order, and have signed up as organ donors.

“There is an inevitability of life having to end,” Mr Garden said.

“If you know you’re going to die, and you have to die at some stage, you can get some preparation work done.

“The reality is most people in our age bracket probably haven’t done what we’ve done. If (this story) prompts someone else to do something about it which has a serious effect, then it’s worth it.”

More information can be found at www.advancecareplanning.org.nz.

There is lots of information available to help you prepare a plan. Contact your local medical centre or visit www.advancecareplanning.org.nz.

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