Funeral directors are accustomed to having challenging conversations with individuals and family members covering a number of difficult topics related to the end of life. So why don’t more of them include advance care planning as part of those discussions? Tom Crean, a British Columbia funeral director and the President of both the Canadian Independent Group of Family Funeral Homes (www.cigfh.ca) and the Family Funeral Home Association (familyfuneral.org), is aiming to change that by using a talent show to get a much broader, and hopefully international conversation started.

“We are already having difficult conversations around preferences for care with individuals and their loved ones, often in the pre-arrangement setting,” says Crean. “It just makes sense that we would also provide information about advance care planning as a valuable component of our education services.

Crean is also Director of the Partners in Care Alliance Society (PICA), founded in 1994 by a group of professionals working in the end-of-life sector. Today, PICA members include, among other professions, nurses, social workers, hospice care workers and funeral and cemetery operators. The Society, looking for a creative way to raise awareness of ACP in the funeral profession and in the general population, has launched a talent show competition to encourage seniors, students and drama troupes to script and film a short video about advance care planning.

“The videos can address the topic in a humourous or serious way, or even in a documentary style,” says Crean. “The goal is produce a learning tool that could be used to educate our communities about the importance of these conversations.” PICA suggests that the skits be filmed as a live presentation during the week of National Advance Care Planning Day to raise awareness within each local community. Winning entries will be shown at a Bereavement Day Show on May 24th in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The talent show competition is a novel way to help people with a sensitive topic, but Crean also hopes that it results in greater awareness among professionals such as funeral and cemetery operators. “We in the funeral profession have a considerable advantage in terms of broaching these types of conversations,” says Crean. “I believe we have an obligation to share this valuable information and help Canadians share their preferences for end-of-life care.”

Crean notes that it’s not easy to get people to confront what can be one of their biggest fears. “Recently the City of Madrid was confronted with three related issues no one seemed to be able to answer, so they made it a competition,” he says. “I am asking the rest of the ‘end-of-life-care’ community to join us in our competition – please help us find a way to get our broader communities engaged in this vital debate.”

For more information about PICA and the talent show competition, visit: http://partnersincarealliance.org/