Advance Care Planning – there’s an app for that!

Do you tweet? Blog? “Like” your favourite brand on Facebook? Chances are that you do – over 17 million Canadians connect on Facebook, and nearly a third of us of share our thoughts in 140-character bursts on Twitter. One thing you’re likely not chatting about? Your wishes for end-of-life care.

A recent poll revealed that less than half of Canadians have had a discussion with a family member or friend about what they would want or not want if they were ill and unable to communicate. Only 9% have ever spoken to a healthcare provider about their wishes for care.

What if you could use social networking to help you start these difficult conversations?

There are a number of online tools to help you do advance care planning and share your plans with others. Qualtonomy (www.qualtonomy.com), for example, uses a series of questions to help you determine your values and articulate what would be important to you if you couldn’t speak for yourself and were seriously ill. You then share these online wishes with “observers” who, if required, can use the information to speak on your behalf. The free website will also send you periodic e-mails (e.g. once a year) to remind you to review your plan.

MyDirectives.com, also a free service, provides the opportunity to store advance care plans online in a secure database, allowing medical personnel in designated hospitals to access the information when needed. You can also print and update your documents as often as you like, and access tools such as conversation starters and glossaries. Although this service originated in the U.S., it is now available throughout North America.

Canada’s new Best Endings website (best-endings.com) asks a series of questions, using a checklist approach to create a date-stamped document that’s emailed to you for sharing or for easy online retrieval. Using gentle humour, Best Endings is structured as a personal journey for reflection, and includes a wealth of resources ranging from evidence-based practices and tools to shared experiences, book reviews and videos.

Our Speak Up workbook is also available as a “fillable” PDF, which means that you can download it from our website, fill it out, save it on your computer and e-mail it to others, such as your Substitute Decision Maker or physician.

Would you be more likely to have end of life conversations if you could do it online?
As social networking continues to grow, these tools may help us explore more approachable and easier ways to make decisions and share them with others – perhaps that’s just what needed for Canadians to speak up and start the conversation!

Nanci Corrigan is a communications strategist and a member of the Advance Care Planning Task Group.