18th September 2017


I am Maria, a nurse at Pilgrims Hospices. I run regular Advance Care Planning workshops inviting people using our services to talk about their future care and wishes.

In these workshops I can answer any questions about living with an incurable illness. I give people the opportunity to talk about their experiences or share their concerns about expressing their wishes for their future care. Family and friends can be there, too, if the individual wants that.

I want to share just five of the benefits people have found by coming to these sessions, because these can just as easily be achieved if you decide to use this talking tool yourself or with your GP.

We support people to take that all-important first step to talk about their needs.

1) Conversations that support individual care

These conversations help the healthcare team involved in the person’s care to know what is important to that person, such as their physical care, values and beliefs. This might also help them to answer the questions people have like, ‘Who will care for my animals?’, ‘Who will support my loved ones?’ or ‘Where is my preferred place to be cared for?’. It also gives people a chance to say what they don’t want to happen.

2) You can review your wishes over time

ACP should be an ongoing conversation, so you can keep reviewing your wishes if these change. It’s not legally binding, but it helps us know how the person wants to be cared for. It’s been found to be one of the most important ways we can ensure reliable, focused care.

3) A starting point for talking with family

When someone is ill, there may be conversations that their family know they need to have but are really worried about starting. The person themselves may also find it very hard to express what they are feeling or what they would like. Through ACP, we give people a starting place to talk about their needs and experiences.

4) Expressing wishes formally or informally

The conversation doesn’t have to be formal and isn’t legally binding, although if someone has a terminal diagnosis that may lead to a loss of capacity, then having a formal, legal record – known as an ‘Advance Decision’ – will help their healthcare team to continue to ensure they are enabling that person’s individual wishes and choices should that person lose capacity to express those wishes.

You don’t need to be ill to express your wishes. I have started these conversations with my own family at home.

5) Inspiration for everyone to talk more openly

So far, the workshops I’m running have proved hugely popular and have been fully subscribed each time. I think this shows the importance of having these big conversations.

Once families talk about their wishes, people can feel a huge sense of relief. Of course, you don’t need to have a terminal diagnosis to express your wishes. I’ve started having these conversations with my own family at home. I find it comforting knowing my wishes will be fulfilled. Whether people come to Pilgrims for support or prefer to talk to their GP, the key is to give people the tools and the confidence to be more open.

Talk to your GP or healthcare professionl about a referral to Pilgims and you can join us for free ACP sessions to give you ideas about how to express your wishes.

Who are ACP sessions for?

All are welcome, including Pilgrims patients, carers, family, friends and members of the public.

When and where?

Monday 8 May, 10am – 12pm at Pilgrims Hospice Canterbury

Tuesday 9 May, 1:30pm – 3:30pm at Pilgrims Hospice Thanet

Friday 12 May, 2pm – 4pm at Pilgrims Hospice Ashford.

Each is a single session lasting up to two hours.