Arthur Te Anini’s frightening diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) three years ago has lead him to help others talk about what matters at the end of their lives.
Te Anini is one of six New Zealanders who have become the face of a campaign launched by the Health Quality & Safety Commission in an effort to get people to plan for end of life care.
Kia kōrero | Let’s talk was launched by health minister Dr David Clark at Te Wharewaka o Pōneke in Wellington to more than 100 members of the health sector on Tuesday night.
Te Anini, who spent most of his life working as a driver for the New Zealand Army, said he hoped that by sharing his story through the campaign he could communicate with others, especially Māori, in a relatable way about the importance of advance care planning.
“Three years ago I was in a very bad space and I didn’t think there was a cure of COPD, well there’s no cure, but you can manage COPD. I was scared and frightened so when I read about advance care planning I thought, ‘This is for me.’
“Once I did the advance care planning all of my worries disappeared.
“This is my plan, it’s been designed by me – not by the doctors, not by my children, but by me.”
During the event, Clark said he was pleased to be able to launch the campaign which “encourages people to plan for their future health care with a focus on what matters to them”.
“Advance care planning is about what matters to you particularly in your last years or months of life.”
Before his political career, he spent a lot of time, as a Presbyterian minister, dealing with families who had no real idea of what their loved one wanted at the end of their life.
“It’s a huge advantage when people have done the preparation, it makes it easier for everyone to know what matters to you specifically.”
This could include what treatment people wanted or didn’t want, who could make decisions for them and who they wanted at their bedside at the end, Clark said.
An advanced care plan could also cover funeral wishes, organ donation and whether they wanted to be buried or cremated.
“Primarily advance care planning is about good communication.
“One of the exciting things about this campaign, Kia kōrero | Let’s talk, is that it features real people…who tell their stories.
“I think it will have a big impact among New Zealanders.”
Te Rōpū Māori (Māori advisory group) chair for Health Quality & Safety Commission, Ria Earp, said when a person knew what they want at the end of their life and the experience went well it had benefits for the whole family.
“When it goes poorly it’s remembered for years and year afterwards.
“Advance care planning is about having the conversation, what really matters when life is limited by time or disability.
“‘When a patient has an advance care plan, knowing their values and what is important to them can make their treatment approach clearer and easier to follow. It is very important that we maintain a patient’s integrity and mana when we make plans for their future.’
The campaign features the personal stories of six New Zealanders at varying stages of life and wellness as well as different cultural perspectives.
Poet, writer and advocate of Māori arts, culture and political rights Keri Kaa shares her thoughts about what is most important to her, as her life draws to a close.
Other videos feature Pusi and Sima Urale, Cheryl Cameron, Noel Tiano, and Clive Aspin and his partner Terry who all talk about their plans for their final days.
The campaign, which will be run primarily on social media, is part of the advance care planning programme managed by the Health Quality & Safety Commission and supported by district health boards.
Visit www.myacp.org.nz for more information or to create your own advance care plan.
Banner: Members of the crowd, including those who have shared their personal stories for the campaign, at the event. Photo/Ruby Harfield