THELMA Meiers’ family had to decide nine years ago whether to switch off her life support.
And she has been grateful ever since that they knew exactly what her wishes were after she suffered a serious heart attack.
Had they gone along with medical advice to end it after three days on life support, not knowing grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have been one of the costs.
She survived because she had discussed what her wishes would be if ever such a situation arose.
Now she is an advocate with the Hume region’s advance care directives working group, encouraging people to speak up early.
For her, she says about two weeks on support, if the situation arose again, would give her a fighting chance.
“My family knew what I wanted and they know me better than any professional,” she said.
Mrs Meiers, of Albury, dreads the family conflict that can arise if there is no plan.
The care her older sister receives for her serious illness has caused disputes.
“Her six children are split because they can’t agree on her care,” Mrs Meiers said.
“It’s really sad and all because my sister didn’t have an advanced-care plan.”
Hume Medicare Local primary health services director Jacki Eckert said it was wrong to see such conversations as being morbid.
“It’s about what you would do if something was to happen,” she said.
Ms Eckert said that an ageing population meant not having an end-of-life-care plan was a growing problem for families.
“People need to talk about it so that when the end comes, it doesn’t cause stress and conflict,” she said.
“It’s like organising somebody to feed your pets and collect your mail when you plan a holiday.”
Ambulance Victoria Wod- onga team manager Mike Fuery said he had seen many cases of family members being stressed about having to make such decisions.
“An elderly gentleman was dying in front of me and his daughter,” he said.
“I told her resuscitation would be aggressive and of how it might leave him.
“She recalled him saying he wanted to be with his wife who had died and immediately became calm.”
Mrs Meiers and Mr Fuery agree it is never too soon to start the conversation with family, friends and health professionals.