The other day at my Rotary meeting our guest speaker was a representative from Advance Care Planning

In my book I wrote about the importance of having a Power Of Attorney (POA) and I’m embarrassed to tell you that what I wrote was incomplete. Something I didn’t realize is that the laws governing POAs is controlled at the provincial level, so what Ontario law enforces may not be enforced by other provinces and vice versa. And by extension, foreign countries may have a completely different set of laws, or no laws at all. So disregard anything you see on TV when it comes to your health care, and educate yourself about your local laws; and, if you travel outside your province you must also educate yourself about the laws of the province or foreign country you’ll be travelling in. 

For example, Ontario’s POA law protects you from doctors who will make decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself (you are unconscious, in a coma, have had a stroke), other provinces and countries may not. The onus is on you to know the local laws.

Now for the really hard part. As the title of this post reads, you need to have The Conversation. It is not enough to appoint someone to be your POA, or for you to agree to be someone’s POA. You have to tell your POA what you want them to do if you cannot communicate for yourself. And if you are the POA for someone, you need to know what they want. This could be even harder than talking to your teenage daughter about the birds and the bees, but you must do it.

I met with my 88 year-old dad yesterday, and we had The Conversation, well, we tried to have it. It was a start, and we’ll try again later, but it was better than not having it at all.

I hope you never need to make these kinds of decisions for someone else, or have them made for you by someone else, but if you are ever in that situation, I hope you had that Conversation Worth Having.

If you live in Ontario, please go to Advance Care Planning