Peace Of Mind Made Possible With Advance Care Planning (ACP)
It was more than 20 years ago, but the emotional stress left a deep impression on 61-year-old Madam Rahmah Binte Anes.
Back in 1996, she had her siblings faced a sudden, difficult decision – their father had slipped into a coma, and the family had to decide if they should resuscitate him or not.
With none the wiser on what their father would have preferred, the siblings were divided, said Madam Rahmah. “My siblings had different opinions, which led to big arguments on what was best for him.”
Troubled by this experience, Madam Rahmah was determined that if something similar were to happen to her, she would not want her own family to go through such anguish and turmoil.
Years later, she found a way to ensure peace of mind for herself and her loved ones.
Finding Out About ACP
The answer: Advance Care Planning, which Madam Rahmah learnt about at a talk in Geylang Serai Community Centre, supported by Ain Society.
Advance Care Planning (ACP) is the process of planning for one’s future health and personal care, in the event that one falls too sick to communicate or make decisions later on. (You can learn about the differences between ACP and other documents, like the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), and Advance Medical Directive (AMD), at this blog post.)
Her introduction to ACP came at the right time. In recent years, Madam Rahmah has experienced her own spate of health issues, from a breast cancer diagnosis in 2005, to learning she has developed arthritis, which is a disease that causes painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints.
“I was told that if my health does not improve, I may no longer be able to manage myself as per normal in future.”
Her resolve to go ahead with an ACP was strengthened by her memories of her father.
“I feel that sometimes, people avoid discussing end-of-life decisions because we do not want to face the reality that our health will decline one day, but our family can be caught in a conflict if they do not know what we want for ourselves.”
Strong Family Support
Madam Rahmah approached Ain Society at the end of the talk to schedule a session to learn more.
Back home, she sat her family down and told them about her desire to prepare an ACP document, explaining her reasons for wanting this done.
Her family was supportive, especially her 27-year-old daughter Marhamah Binte Mohamed Ali, who helped her mother find out more about the ACP.
“When I told my daughter I wanted to do an ACP, she gathered more information from the internet, and also brought back some brochures for us to read together.”
After talking it over, Marhamah agreed that she will be Madam Rahmah’s Nominated Healthcare Spokesperson (NHS) for the ACP.
As an NHS, Marhamah will be the point person to communicate her mother’s wishes with the healthcare team, in the event that her mother is too ill to do so herself. It is the responsibility of the NHS to ensure their loved one is able to live out their life meaningfully.
The ACP Session
The formal process started when mother and daughter met their ACP facilitator, a case worker from Ain Society in November 2019.
The case worker helped them understand the ACP process, and addressed their questions and concerns.
To better understand Madam Rahmah’s preferences on her future healthcare treatments, the case worker took both women through some scenarios. What would Madam Rahmah prefer should she fall seriously ill, and the medical team has to decide whether to prolong her life in the event that there was a low possibility of a cure? Near the end of life, what is Madam Rahmah’s preferences on privacy?
The chance to open up about issues she would not normally broach to her family lifted a load off Madam Rahmah’s shoulders.
“I was being assured that my decision matters and that the medical team will refer to my ACP document for my future treatment and care plans.”
Peace Of Mind For Family
The benefit of the ACP was apparent to Madam Rahmah after it was completed.
Not only has she been able to articulate her care wishes clearly, but she also knows that Marhamah and her family are well-prepared for the tough decisions to come down the line.
“For me, the most important reason would be to not put any burden on anyone, especially my own family members. Being able to make a decision for myself while I still can, gives me peace of mind.”