For Connie Pilgrim and Debbie Hollett, the key to advance care planning (ACP) is getting the conversation started. The pair promoted National Advance Care Planning day in April 2014 by creating poster displays and organizing information sessions for residents, families and staff of nursing homes and personal care homes.

Debbie, the Regional Social Worker for Palliative Care in Long Term Care and Connie, a Regional Social Work Coordinator for Long Term Care at Eastern Health – Regional Health Authority in Newfoundland and Labrador, believe there are many natural opportunities to get the conversation started. Sometimes, a bit of help from the media – for example, a recent news story, or a television show – is what’s needed to get discussions going. They say that this approach is a just one way to help people feel more comfortable about making their advance care plans.

“Often times events that happen in televisions show or a new story that will initiate a discussion, such as: If that was you or your family member, what would you want,” says Debbie. “Or perhaps there has been a health change or a death in the family. There are many ways to initiate the discussion.”
Workshop participants have provided positive feedback about the sessions. “A lot of people felt more comfortable about completing their advance care plans,” says Debbie. “Others already had an advance care plan but realized that they needed to update it – for example, if there had been a death or divorce that may change who they would name as a Substitute Decision Maker.”
During the information sessions, Debbie and Connie underlined the importance of sharing advance care plans with loved ones and the family physician. “We emphasize to participants the importance of having the conversation with the family, recognizing that it’s not an easy conversation to have,” says Connie. They also provided and reviewed copies of the Newfoundland and Labrador Advance Health Care Directive form and highlighted the Advance Health Care Directive forms wallet card that can be completed to inform family and health professionals of the location of a Directive.
In 2015, Debbie and Connie are hoping to collaborate with a variety of professionals across multiple sectors of health care to form a working group to further promote Advance Care Planning. “Advance Care Planning Day is April 16th,” says Connie, “but the need for advance care planning is year round.”