PLAN AHEAD: talking about end of life care is important for all of us.
PLAN AHEAD: talking about end of life care is important for all of us. Palliative Care Australia

What matters most when the horizon is getting closer?

HAVE you thought about what are the most important things in your life that you want protected if you are faced with a life-limiting illness or something untoward happened to you?

It's a tough question for many of us to answer. It's a confronting concept to be planning for the end of our life, but by having the conversations now, we can trust in our wishes being implemented at a critical time when it may not possible for us to voice what we want and how we want it done.

What  matters most to you?

Writing down or recording your thoughts will help you to start the process - consider travel, food, laughter, pets and music, mementos, family trinkets, experiences, your funeral, medical support, Power of Attorney, finances, substitute decision makers, friends, family and anything else you want to add to your list.

Getting your thoughts recorded and then verbally sharing them with others could turn into an interesting journey as you reveal to yourself new elements of your character, perhaps challenge yourself to re-prioritise your choices and goals, and even revive long repressed wishes.

Palliative Care Australia's chief executive officer Ms Callaghan said where a person talks openly to their family and doctors they are more likely to get the care they want. "If you don't have these conversations, we believe you can end up receiving care you don't necessarily want because you haven't been asked or you haven't volunteered that information for yourself, or not receiving the care you do want," Ms Callaghan said.

Don't wait until it's too late

It's not about waiting until the end of your life that Ms Callaghan is advocating; she wants you to start planning the details now so that you can use those plans to start a conversation with your significant others and then get on with living life to the full. You can then return to those conversations over time as circumstances change.

"There is a very strong consensus among Australians that talking about their end of life care is important, should something happen, but most haven't had the conversation," Ms Callaghan said.

Anything can happen to anyone at end time, she reminds us.

"You might see something on the television and say 'I would love to experience that one day' or 'I would never want to live like that if that happened to me'," Ms Callaghan said. "Continually exploring those ideas with your family is the first step. It's really about understanding and thinking about what you want."

To find ideas on how to start the conversation, you can go to where there is a range of tools to help you put together your 'what matters most' list.

What is palliative care?

"It is about helping people live their life as fully and as comfortably as possible when living with a life-limiting or terminal illness," Ms Callaghan said. "Part of that is caring for them at the very end when they do die. The majority of care is provided for those who can still achieve many things." The care, which is available to anyone of any age, is often also provided to family members and carers.

"The aim of palliative care is to help people live as long as they can in a quality way," Ms Callaghan added.

Palliative Care Australia's website has fact sheets and videos on to help you start the conversations.

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