Advance care planning: It’s never too early to be prepared

A representation agreement is a crucial component

April 16 is National Advance Care Planning Day. In recognition, the Comox Valley Advance Care Planning Committee is hoping you will consider being prepared, whether you are staying at home or planning an exciting travel adventure.

If traveling, of course you will need your passport, credit card and phone, but had you thought of your representation agreement?

A representation agreement is a legal way for you to name someone to make health care and personal care decisions for you when you are unable to speak for yourself — the gift that can provide clarity during chaos.

Life changes in an instant

Consider what happened to Russ and Karen Cook.

Russ. He’s 58. Strong. Fit. Healthy. An avid skier and road cyclist. Russ is at the Calgary airport waiting for his return flight home. And out of the blue – boom. He collapses. He doesn’t faint. He collapses. Immediately comatose and unresponsive.

He’s rushed to emergency. Tests show he has excessive bleeding in the brain, but no conclusive cause. He’s intubated to help him breathe.

And that’s when Karen Cook, his wife, starts getting the unexpected, life-changing calls. Tests, scans, and more tests follow. And when all the medical information is compiled and shared with the family, Karen knows there is no hope.

But Karen already had an incredible gift of love from her husband of nearly 33 years – a gift that enabled her to make a decision on his behalf without conflict or guilt: He had expressed his wishes to family and friends should something medically catastrophic happen. He had an advance care plan.

“He said, if anything catastrophic happens to me, don’t keep me alive; don’t keep me in the hospital. Take me to the mountains, to the ocean. Let me lie under the stars,” recalls Karen.

“He made this very clear to us. We all knew that Russ wouldn’t want to be in this condition.”

Karen knew what she had to do to respect Russ’ wishes.

“We needed to let him go. We couldn’t keep him alive on machines because he was so clear about his wishes.”

As hard as it was to say goodbye, and still deeply missing him, Karen says she has no regrets.

Every adult in British Columbia not only needs a will and an enduring power of attorney, but also a representation agreement. Whether you are traveling or staying at home, making your representation agreement is quick, free and easy. You can find the form online on the Comox Valley Advance Care Planning Website: www.AdvanceCarePlanningCV.ca

Free workshops

To register for free workshops on having the conversation and preparing your advance care plan on April 12 or May 10, 1-3 p.m. at the Comox Legion, 1825 Comox Ave., Comox, call the Comox Valley Hospice Society at 250-339-5533.

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