PORT HAWKESBURY: With Caregivers Awareness Month now in the books, a representative of Caregivers Nova Scotia (CNS) is hoping her latest Strait area workshop will help local caregivers plan ahead for issues that may arise in the months and years to come.

Maggie Roach-Ganaway, a CNS caregiver support representative for Cape Breton, arrived at the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Strait Area Campus cafeteria on May 18 for a two-hour session entitled “Advance Care Planning For Caregivers: Getting Started.”

Roach-Ganaway began the session by sharing her own experiences regarding difficult end-of-life decisions for someone in her care. A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) for decades, with a quarter-century of experience in long-term care, she came face-to-face with the difficulties faced by many when her husband passed away at the age of 53 as the result of a brain tumour.

“It kind of makes you reevaluate your life a little bit to decide what direction you need to go,” said Roach-Ganaway, who used her example to point out the “great deal of thought and reflection and discussion that needs to be done” in terms of advance care planning.

“Many caregivers are wracked with guilt over the decisions that they made or feeling responsible or possible negative after-effects, so it’s an important talk to have with your loved ones,” she stressed.

“At that moment, you’re in a stressful situation and you don’t know. So having things written down and available at your fingertips make that a great deal.”

Photo by Adam Cooke
Maggie Roach-Ganaway, a Cape Breton caregiver support representative for Caregivers Nova Scotia, held a two-hour workshop entitled: “Advance Care Planning for Caregivers: Getting Started,” on May 18 at the NSCC Strait Area Campus in Port Hawkesbury.

While she stressed the need for local caregivers to give the necessary attention to such documents as wills and estate planning for those in their care, Roach-Ganaway also pointed out the need for those in attendance to have their own affairs in order.

“Most caregivers tell us that they have definite ideas of the kind of care they want, but a lot of people just don’t document it… It does take a little gumption, I think, to go into your doctor and talk about stuff like that,” Roach-Ganaway acknowledged.

“If you want to ensure your wishes for care are heard and respected, you need to have that discussion with your family and friends and make sure that you have an advanced care plan for yourself, as well – don’t forget about yourself.”

Through a series of round-table discussions, workshops and surveys, Roach-Ganaway is hoping her mid-May visit to the Port Hawkesbury NSCC campus will help drive home the importance of advance care planning for caregivers and their clients alike.

“We’d all love for our loved ones to be able to communicate right to the end, but the fact is, that’s simply not the way it is right now,” Roach-Ganaway told her Strait area audience.

“It’s about taking control of your future and your care… And you can always remember, too, that you can always change your mind when life situations come up. If I wrote an advanced care plan 20 years ago and I’m in a totally different place right now, I’d have to change some things to make it current.”