Five reasons why it is important for you to introduce the concept of Advance Care Planning (ACP) to your parents once they are over 55 years old. If you have aged parents and are concern over their aging process and how best to plan with them – this article is for you.
1. Nobody lives forever
One great illusion of life is that it often feels like things remain status quo forever – be it health, relationship or our continued vocation. Although cognitively, people knows that nobody lives forever, but even the thought of entertaining the possibility of death are often shunned, chain locked and sealed into an untouchable crate.
Mere introduction on the concept of Advance Care Planning is equally as important as insurance or retirement planning. The stark difference (and this is the important point) is that Advance Care Planning often requires far greater involvement of the family than any other sort of planning processes. Money cannot ‘solve’ this – only loads of conversation with a genuine purpose of wanting to understand can.
You can learn more about Advance Care Planning here.
2. It is free of charge – only requires a little time investment on your part.
In Singapore, Advance Care Planning can only be performed by a certified Advance Care Planning Facilitator. Under Good Death Project, we have a number of trained facilitators that would be able to assist you and your family to complete the process.
Since it is only a matter of time before your parents would consider some form of end-of-life planning (to write a Will for example). Therefore, one should seriously consider kick starting any end-of-life planning process first with an Advance Care Plan.
3. When you truly understand your parents’ values, wishes and goals, you are in a better position to relieve unnecessary suffering on their behalf when making decision.
When you have to make decision on behalf for your parents, more often than not, children have to guess about their parents’ values, wishes and goals. If truth be told, without prior conversation, we are relying entirely on our perspective of things, which can be challenging when judgements are required to make critical decision on when and under what circumstances to withhold or withdraw treatment.
As children, sometimes our goals may differ from our parents too. For example, the choice of having higher quality of life, such as opting for conservative medical treatment that brings about greater level of comfort as compared to potentially aggressive curative treatment that may yield poorer quality of life.
4. Advance Care Planning is an on-going process – hence the earlier you start, the better it is.
Almost like your personal ‘health-communication booklet’ – an Advance Care Plan stays with you indefinitely. We often review it from time to time, even with our doctors, because our circumstances and thinking might evolve.
Starting early has enormous advantages; it allows time for our parents to start thinking about what’s truly important for them as there will never truly be any ‘suitable time’ today, tomorrow or in the future. Hence, might as well be now. Such situation is analogous to backing essential data from our computer to the hard disk – we know that this is an important practice but we often have inertia to do so because it requires time investment on our part.
And when our computer crashes, we often regret not backing our data and start praying for divine interventions. Surely, pain still comes to those that did their due diligence, but the intensity is hardly as poignant. Bouncing back from where we last ended is considerably easier for those who backup their information than those who failed to do so.
And in fact, backing up information doesn’t change how you use your computer – so completing an Advance Care Plan doesn’t change how you live your life. Both only kicks in when unfortunate circumstances arise.
5. Because we love our parents
This is a hard one to understand but I will try to convince you why introducing Advance Care Planning to our parents is one of the most challenging yet loving duties you could ever perform as a child.
Based on Lien Foundation Population findings on death attitude (2014), only half of Singaporeans have talked about death or dying with their loved ones. Those 60 years old and above are least likely to talk about death.
If we pretend that all will be well forever and not talk about the possibility of an end somewhere down the road – the combination of these two ingredients are usually a recipe for a disaster.
Being filial alone is not just about buying gifts, spending family time or bringing your parents to fanciful restaurant every other week for dinner. Surely, these are very important relational processes that I would encourage you to continue, but an often overlooked duty that children could play is the role to help allay your parents’ fear of being a burden as they are likely to hold this unspoken perspective – even without expressing.
Why are we so confident?
In the same research finding, the top three fears about death are medical costs (88%), being a burden to family and friends (87%) and the well-being of their family after death (80%). In fact, the fear is even more pronounced for older Chinese folks, attributing to 94% of Chinese aged 60 and above to possess such fear.
By making the first step to introduce the concept of Advance Care Planning, you are already taking your first step to address this unspoken anxiety. By taking the initiative to breach the topic because precisely nobody lives forever – that’s why you care enough… in fact so much that it actually nudge you into this initially discomforting yet potentially one of the most beautiful conversation you could ever hold with your parents.
It takes a lot of love and some courage to do this.
Advance Care Planning requires your involvement as children as well, hence, if you are convinced that this is an important process – we are halfway through journey already.
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