Make your end-of-life wishes known with My Own Voice

Bayshore | | Family & Caregiver Resources

dad and son in conversation

Have you had “the conversation” about your end-of-life wishes with your family, friends and health care professionals? If you haven’t because you find death and dying difficult to talk about, you’re not alone. A lot of people feel uncomfortable, awkward or embarrassed. Unfortunately, this means that the subject often goes undiscussed – and when people lose the ability to communicate, it’s too late to make their preferences known.

A new mobile app is making “the conversation” easier for Canadians. My Own Voice, an interactive app for iOS and Android devices, helps people consider, record and communicate their end-of-life wishes, including their preferences regarding life-prolonging treatments, resuscitation and funeral arrangements.

My Own Voice asks nine questions. For each answer, users record a video of themselves using the camera on their smartphone or tablet. You can delete and record answers as many times as you like. You can skip questions and return to them later. When you’re finished, the app combines your answers into one video, which you can share confidentially with your loved ones, caregivers and health care professionals. (They receive a unique website address and a password. No one else can view your video, not even the app company.) If you ever want to change an answer, simply record a new video.

My Own Voice is the creation of a small, Vancouver-based startup company of the same name. Its goal is to give people a voice in their own care, as well as the reassurance that if something prevents them from communicating – for example, a coma, dementia or disability – their wishes have been recorded and family members will understand how they want to be cared for. The video is accessible anytime to people who have been invited to view it.

“We can’t control everything in life, but we should have some control over how we want to die or don’t want to die,” says Bill Baker, CEO and co-founder of My Own Voice. “Not enough people are having that conversation. When you’re approaching the end of your life, whether through disease or another reason, doctors are looking to your family members. And if your family hasn’t had a clear conversation with you, they’re left to, at best, guessing, or worse, arguing over it.”

The app’s nine questions were developed with help from health care professionals who specialize in aging, hospice care and palliative care. It is available in English only, but the company plans to add French, Spanish, Chinese and other languages. My Own Voice has a one-time cost of $6.99. (Read more about My Own Voice or watch a video on YouTube.)

The app is not legally binding, says Baker, but it provides insight and guidance that legal documents often can’t. “We encourage people to use My Own Voice in addition to a legally binding document, like a health care power of attorney or a living will. Those forms give someone the legal right to make decisions on your behalf if ever called upon to do so. My Own Voice helps them make the right decision,” says Baker. “We know from our research that families want that personal insight – what would Mom want, what would Dad say makes life meaningful and he wouldn’t want to live without,” says Baker. “In that moment of truth, your family needs the clarity of your wishes, but also the courage and conviction to make the right decisions for you instead of the decisions they’d make because they’re having a hard time letting go.”

As you make decisions about your preferences for senior and end-of-life care, keep in mind that home care services – such as nursing, personal care, light housekeeping and companionship – often help people live independently for longer. Bayshore HealthCare provides home care services, as well as palliative care, in private homes and in the community. Contact Bayshore today for a no-obligation consultation.