Spreading the Word on Advanced Care Planning to Seniors in the Cowichan Valley

A partnership between the Cowichan Community Response Network (CRN) through Volunteer Cowichan, Island Health, Divisions of Family Practice, Our Cowichan Community Health Network, and Youth 20/20 Can Cowichan is helping seniors in the Cowichan Valley have conversations about advanced care planning.

Jennifer shows us a sample of the Advanced Care Planning info card. (Photo. D. Chow)

Are You Prepared for the Unexpected? Plan For Your Future is the newest in the series of pocket-sized information cards created to get the word out on advanced care and incapacity planning. And the word did get out to 10,000 seniors who received this information with their COVID-19 vaccines.

“Over the years, we’ve worked together to produce rack cards,” says Jennifer Lazenby, Executive Director of Volunteer Cowichan and Coordinator of the Cowichan CRN. “Thanks to funding provided by the BC CRN, we were able to produce Are Your Prepared? and get them into the hands of seniors as part of Island Health’s vaccine rollout in the Cowichan Valley.”

Are Your Prepared? accompanies How Are You Aging?, which includes a frailty scale self-assessment tool, Roads to Safety, which provides seniors with information on transportation options when it comes time to surrender their car keys, and Safe Seniors, Strong Communities, Social Prescribing, a card produced in concert with Healthy Aging by the United Way to help seniors address self-isolation. Provincial and local resources on each topic are also provided.

Creating and then distributing these information packages was swift. “We had about two weeks to create content, produce the cards, and assemble the packages for Island Health to hand out at the clinics,” Jennifer adds. “Vaccine schedules are unpredictable, so when we found out, we leaped into action.”

This new info card contains information on the basics of advanced care planning and resources to consult. (Photo. D. Chow)

“We built on the Vancouver Island LOVE CRN’s advanced care planning project for content and a template was already available from the other cards we produced before” continues Jennifer. “The printing was most impacted by the time constraints. Luckily, once the printers learned of what we were doing and why, they got on board and made things happen. The first batch of 2,000 cards was done in a couple of days.”

The information was packaged in clear plastic bags for hygienic reasons (“We normally don’t use plastic, but it was something that worked,” says Jennifer), and a paper-based card was selected over a digital solution. “It was important to have these cards in print for ease of distribution, especially to seniors,” she explains. “More seniors are online as a result of the pandemic, however, most we encounter like having something they can ‘grab-and-go.”

Through Youth 20/20 Can Cowichan[1], a team of 15 youth volunteers from Cowichan helped assemble the last 8,000 vaccine packages. “They started working with us right away and many wanted to help,” says Jennifer. “With physical distancing measures in place, we organized three shifts of between three to four hours each.”

To date, all 10,000 cards are in the community, and there is a desire to produce more for service and support agencies. “The information in the advanced care plan cards isn’t just for seniors,” explains Jennifer. “It’s a topic that is universal to any adult from 19 years and up. The cards are our way of planting the seed with people to ask themselves if they’ve thought about what to do if something unexpected happens with their health. Knowledge is power: you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Volunteer youth was essential in helping create the vaccine packages. (Photo: Youth 20/20 Can Cowichan Facebook)

For more information on the Cowichan CRN or to get involved, please contact Jennifer Lazenby at ed@volunteercowichan.bc.ca or 250-748-2133. The “Are You Ready For The Unexpected” info card and its companion pieces are currently available only in print. Please contact Jennifer to receive your copy.

The template will be available on the BC CRN website in the coming months for CRNs wanting to produce their own information cards.

To learn more about Volunteer Cowichan, like and follow them on Facebook.

Written by: Debbie Chow, Links Communication Solutions. Follow Debbie on LinkedIn: @debbiechowabc.


[1] Youth 20/20 Can Cowichan is funded under a grant through Service Canada.

(Header photo: J. Lazenby)

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