Advance Care Planning: Young People Are Our Future

Young people are our future

Last week, two seemingly unrelated events demonstrated to me what is now irrefutable: Young people are the future.

It’s a tough sell to convince vibrant, healthy young people to attend an intergenerational event devoted to end-of-life discussions. But, on March 21 they came in droves to “What’s up, Doc? We’re Dying to Talk.” Organizers raised funds to award five $1500 scholarships as door prizes to generate attendance among the college-age cohort.

The venue was overflowing, with estimates that 60 percent attending were students. Sure, they were enticed by the scholarships, but they were spellbound by the personal stories offered by presenters representing every decade from their 20s through their 90s.

The community event, co-hosted by PeaceHealth Medical Group, Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement, Chuckanut Health Foundation, and the Palliative Care Institute, was designed to raise awareness about advance care planning to address future health decisions if a person becomes unable to speak on their own behalf. Advance care planning is for all adults 18 years and older.

The student publication at Northwest Indian College reported the event had “opened a dialogue on campus” about making future healthcare wishes known.

One student said, “I’m going home on spring break and telling my parents what I’d want and they are going to tell me what they’d want if we’re ever unable to communicate ourselves.”

Speakers from PHMG explained their Honoring Choices Initiative. They outlined PeaceHealth’s support—and robust commitment—for a comprehensive plan for understanding, documenting and honoring patient values and goals of care at the end of life in all health-care settings.

I was encouraged that students were quick to embrace discussing advance care planning. They seemed to grasp the importance of ACP faster than their parents and grandparents have. Then days later the massive crowds at March for Our Lives convinced me that young people are, indeed, the future. They will shift the culture toward meaningful change.

They deserve our support so they can learn, live, thrive and succeed.

—Micki Jackson, Bellingham, Consumer Advocate