Advance care planning
It is important to plan for your future medical care, and to discuss your preferences and values with your family, friends and health care team. This process is called advance care planning.
Although advance care planning is often done when people are told their condition is terminal, or as they approach the end of life, it can be started at any time, whether you are healthy or ill.
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Advance care planning can involve:
- talking and making decisions about what is important to you for quality of life
- discussing what treatments you may or may not want, including where you want to receive care (e.g. in hospital or at home if possible)
- appointing a substitute decision-maker
- preparing legal documents, including an advance care directive.
It is hard to know what medical care you’re going to want until the situation arises. Many people find their attitudes and preferences for medical care change as they get closer to death, and they may need to revisit their decision regularly. To help you consider what care you’d like, think about what is important to you and talk with your health professionals. This may take several discussions.
For some people, quality of life is more important than length, but for others, it may be the reverse. You may want to find a balance between what medical care can achieve and the side effects of treatments.
Discussing these issues with others will help them understand your goals, values and beliefs, and help to ensure that your preferences are respected should you lose the capacity to make your own decisions. Without these conversations, distressed family members may have disagreements about whether to keep you alive using any means possible or to focus on your quality of life.
Advance care documents can be as simple or as detailed as you like. As part of your advance care planning, you may appoint a substitute decision-maker and record your wishes in an advance care directive.
For more information about advance care planning, call 1300 208 582 or visit advancecareplanning.org.au.
Podcast: Living with Dying
Prof Jane Phillips, Head, School of Nursing and Professor, Centre for Healthcare Transformation, Queensland University of Technology and Emerita Professor Palliative Nursing, University of Technology Sydney, NSW; Prof Meera Agar, Palliative Care Physician, Professor of Palliative Medicine, University of Technology Sydney, IMPACCT, Sydney, NSW; Sandra Anderson, Consumer; A/Prof Megan Best, The University of Notre Dame Australia and The University of Sydney, NSW; Prof Lauren Breen, Psychologist and Discipline Lead, Psychology, Curtin University, WA; David Dawes, Manager, Spiritual Care Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rob Ferguson, Consumer; Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar, Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Social Worker, One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy, NSW; Justine Hatton, Senior Social Worker, Southern Adelaide Palliative Services, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Caitlin MacDonagh, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Palliative Care, Royal North Shore Hospital, Northern Sydney Local Health District, NSW; McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer; Palliative Care Australia; Belinda Reinhold, Acting Lead Palliative Care, Cancer Council QLD; Xanthe Sansome, National Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia; Kirsty Trebilcock, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA.
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