Instead of losing herself to anger and grief when she
learned her cancer had returned, Sonja Ostrem seized the
time she had left. Ostrem hates watching her family suffer, so
she set a goal to ease their burden.
As her husband, Dean Vig, says, “That’s one thing about
cancer, it gives you time to say goodbye.”
Ostrem still takes every chance to tell her family she loves
them, but she has also laid out her medical wishes if a time
comes when she can’t speak for herself.
To help, Ostrem used new advance care planning
resources from Alberta Health Services called Conversations
Matter. They help individuals and families talk with health-care providers and each other about care both now and
in the future, when patients may not be able to speak for
themselves. The resources include a guidebook and two
videos to fuel conversations and explain medical terms.
Conversations are pivotal to advance care planning.
“Research shows that when conversations have occurred,
people are more likely to be satisfied with their care,” says
Bev Berg, the manager of AHS’s Advance Care Planning/
Goals of Care, “and family members feel more assured about
their loved one’s care.”
Advance care planning begins with patients thinking and
talking about their wishes and values and includes talking to
their health-care team about what their medical future may
Conversations Matter gets families talking
Family anxiety and uncertainty can often be avoided,
especially during a medical emergency, by having everyone,
regardless of age, discuss and write down their wishes.
Creating these documents helps guide the designated agent,
who speaks and makes decisions for the patient if the need
arises. Informal documents such as a journal or family
letters can get conversations started. Although not required,
a personal directive, a legal document, lets both family and
caregivers know a patient’s wishes if that patient is no longer
able to speak.
Although she faced another round of cancer treatment
this past fall, Ostrem expressed a sense of peace when asked
how she felt. “My heart is happy. If your heart’s happy,
— Sherri Fraser
For more about Conversations Matter and advance care
• Visit: albertahealthservices.ca/advancecareplanning.asp
• Call: 403-943-0249
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sonja Ostrem has completed advanced care planning.