Amaranth took the lead in the conversation about the importance of people of all ages having an advance care plan at a morning tea in Wagga as part of the inaugural National Advance Care Planning Week last month.

The morning tea at Amaranth’s Health and Wellbeing Centre was attended by clients, kindred organisations and staff. CEO and Founder, Julianne Whyte OAM said the morning was an ideal opportunity for people to begin the conversation about what they would want in terms of their health care when they can’t speak for themselves.

Julianne Whyte discusses the need for advance care plans with LikeMind’s Tracey and Alex.

“It’s important to not wait until you’re close to dying or faced with a terminal illness, but to actually think about what you want to happen with your life if you fall ill. My 21 year old has an advance care plan. If something happened to him I would want to know what his wishes and preferences were. It should be part of good mental health care.”

Julianne said Amaranth first became involved in advance care planning in 2011 through a project with the Austin Hospital and Respect Australia that was investigating the need for people to look at future health care planning.

“It’s about documenting how you want to be cared for, who you want to be around you, some of the regrets you might want to work on, some of the griefs that might need to be fixed, some of the traumas

that need to be addressed, before you either can’t speak for yourself or you’re on a terminal pathway: these are really important aspects of good mental health care. Unfortunately it’s often put on the back burner and not considered until people are dying or may be in aged care facilities or in hospitals but it should be for all of us.”

“So what we are going to advocate for is that an advance care plan is written into NDIS plans as part of the support; is written into My Aged Care work that we do with the elderly. We will advocate for it to be part of the work we do with every single person who comes to an Amaranth centre. We will ask people: What are your future health needs? What are your future concerns? Are there things that we can help you to document so that your family and loved ones know what matters at the end of life?

“The way we want to do is to this is to chat about this, to network, we have some really good documents that we have worked on and checklists.”

Julianne related the story of an elderly woman who she spoke to who thought she only had a couple of months to live.

“She did have dementia but was not considered terminal. Sitting with her and her family I asked her ‘What are the things that really matter to you? Have you thought about what matters?’

Well, she said, for one thing I want to be cremated and have half my ashes scattered in the Murray River, and the other half out at Oaklands under the big tree. I remember her daughters sitting there going wow! Let’s write that down right away.

“The family’s response was that she had never told them this. Fortunately it happened because three or four days later she died even though her death wasn’t expected. I just think if we didn’t have that conversation, what might have happened. Would they have read it in the will, or someone might have said ‘Did you realise mum wanted this?’”

“Have you considered what would happen if, God forbid, you were hit by a bus, or you had a stroke?

Or something serious happened in your life, who would know what matters to you and how you want to be cared for. Whether you want to end up in a nursing home. Whether you want to live independently. Whether you want to be supported by the NDIS? Who knows this? Before you lose capacity to talk for yourself, who could you nominate who knows what you want? When you can’t talk for yourself, know that if you have a trusted loved one who has this information.

‘What are the things that really matter to you? Have you thought about what matters?’ “So take a document today or start jotting down some points.”

Thank You Commercial Club, Wagga Wagga for providing crockery , and to Ferndale Distributors for delicious cakes and slices for our morning tea.