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ADVANCED CARE PLANNING
The following information is adapted from Advance Care Planning Australia.
Advance care planning is about individuals making informed decisions around their health care choices now and into the future, especially thinking about their end of life. Advance care planning is an opportunity to consider your values, goals, beliefs and preferences for future health care. Looking at the types of care and treatment options available for various ailments to decide which you would accept or refuse if you had a life-limiting illness or injury and were unable to communicate your wishes. It’s preferable to share conversations with close family and health care providers so they are aware of your preferences and respect your informed choices. You are encouraged to elect a ‘substitute decision-maker’ to ensure your health care preferences are supported in the event you are unable to verbally communicate your wishes. A valuable resource may be found in the conversation starter resource, a useful tool to guide open conversations.
Ideally, you will go on to record your wishes in an Advance Care Directive which is a formal, usually legally binding document used to record your specific wishes and preferences for future care. This includes specific treatments you would accept or refuse if you had a life limiting illness, injury or were approaching your end of life. An advance care directive will only be used if you do not have capacity to decide for yourself or are unable to communicate your wishes. It is recommended your advance care directive be written and signed by you and a witness. Your elected substitute decision-maker, formally known as ‘Enduring Guardian’, whose role is to make health and lifestyle decisions on your behalf, should you be unable to communicate your preferences will be guided by your advance care directive, also known as an emotional will. It is recommended you appoint a trusted family member for this role. You may wish to also appoint a substitute Enduring Guardian in case your principal nominee is unavailable. Further information and forms may be sourced here, substitute decision maker.
A copy of your advance care directive should be provided to your health care providers, Enduring Guardian, close family and may be uploaded to your online My Health record. An advance care directive is valid and legally binding when you had decision-making capacity when you made it, you made it without influence or pressure by anyone, it has clear and specific details about treatment that you would accept or refuse, you have not revoked it and that it extends to the situation at hand.
The Advance Care Directive application process and forms vary between States and Territories with each location's resources available here to create your plan.
Advanced care planning benefits everyone: you, your family and your health care providers. Some important factors to consider when completing your plan:
Forward planning helps ensure you receive the care you actually want and eliminate what you don’t
Improves ongoing end of life care/ palliative care
Loved ones of those having undertaken advanced care planning experience less anxiety, depression, stress and are more satisfied with care
Reduces incidences of unnecessary invasive procedures
Improved pain management
Voluntary assisted dying. Organ or tissue donation wishes
How you wish to be treated emotionally and physically leading up to, during and following death
Do you have any spiritual or religious requests?
Where is your preferred place to die? Home, hospice, hospital etc.
If you haven’t undertaken advanced care planning or created an advanced care directive or identified a substitute decision maker, and you become seriously ill, doctors will make treatment decisions based on their own assessments of your best interests. This may include treatments you would not want.
Advance Care Planning can be extended to include emotional and spiritual wishes, cultural considerations and customs, rituals, funeral planning, living Wills and legacy documents can be used to to allocate possessions not dealt with in your Will or estate.
Please note that AHFA uses the term ‘Family’ to indicate kinship bonds and relationships of mutual love and support. These relationships may or may not be biological or legally recognised. However, if your family sits outside of the nuclear unit, it is imperative that your advanced care directive and funeral wishes be clearly communicated so that your values are upheld.
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