Think Ahead is a practical tool and customisable guide for advance care planning and end of life. It helps you document your healthcare choices and personal wishes, with resources to help you start to think and talk about your preferences for end of life. Valerie Smith explains the initiative to Mairead Robinson …
Think Ahead– what is it?
Think Ahead Ahead Planning Packs are easy to read, comprehensive guides for anybody who wants to start putting their affairs in order for end of life. In Think Ahead, people can make their care wishes known, appoint somebody to act as their healthcare advocate, keep track of important documents, and much, much more.
Over 100,000 have already received a version of Think Ahead, which was first printed over 10 years ago. ‘We all know stories of families who fell out because of the stress of making decisions for a parent at their end of their life, or how difficult it can be to know how a person’s life should be commemorated,’ says IHF Public Engagement Lead Valerie Smith. ‘Think Ahead helps families avoid conflict, because we’ve already stated what we want and don’t want, and its in writing.’
What’s new in the 2022 edition?
Now expanded, each Think Ahead Planning Pack includes two booklets, a leaflet, and a folder for storage. The first booklet, My Personal Wishes and Care, asks those completing the forms how they would like to be cared for, in the face of illness or injury. People can record where they would prefer to be—such as at home or in hospice; what is important to them—such as having visitors, spiritual or religious beliefs, and favourite music; and how to care for them—such as favourite foods or pain management. This booklet also records important legal and financial information for easy reference, and—for the courageous or creative—information on what type of funeral, burial, and after-death care you would prefer.
Secondly, the booklet My Advance Healthcare Directive guides users in how to refuse or request treatment for a later date, if some illness or injury means that a person cannot make or express their choices. Here, someone can also appoint a trusted friend or relative to make their healthcare decisions on their behalf in such an event. “Most people think that their ‘next-of-kin’ will make these decisions for them, but the truth is that ‘next-of-kin’ has no legal standing,” explains Valerie. “You must name a person to carry out your choices if you want someone to advocate for you.”
Lastly, using the Medical Summary Form included in the planning packs, people can summarise what has been stated in the other booklets and ask their GP, Specialist or healthcare team to make a copy for their medical file. This ensures that if the time comes, everybody who needs to know is already aware about your previously recorded choices.
Want to learn more?
This autumn, Irish Hospice Foundation is taking Think Ahead on a roadshow around the country where people will be taught how to use the forms and start conversations with their family and friends. Information on these roadshows will be updated on the Think Ahead Hub, thinkahead.ie. Valerie knows that talking about death and dying can be hard, “but talking about it can make dying and death less stressful, less fear-filled, and a better experience for everyone.”