Advance care planning
If you have not already done so, 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. You need to be an adult and have capacity to complete advance care documents.
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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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 appointments.
For some people, quality of life is more important than length, but for others, it may be the reverse. Some people may feel there’s nothing worse than death, and will do anything to avoid it. Others may prefer to die comfortably without unnecessary and sometimes uncomfortable procedures. 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, it’s not uncommon for distressed family members to have disagreements about whether to keep you alive using any means possible or focus on your quality of life. You might like to use one of Palliative Care Australia’s discussion starters or Advance Care Planning Australia’s conversation starters.
Your 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.
Each state and territory has different laws about advance care directives and substitute decision-makers. To find out more, visit advancecareplanning.org.au or call 1300 208 582.
Dr Megan Ritchie, Staff Specialist Palliative Medicine, Palliative Care Service, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Gabrielle Asprey, Cancer Support Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Rosemary Cavanough, Consumer; Louise Durham, Nurse Practitioner, Metro South Palliative Care Service, QLD; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Linda Nolte, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC; Rowena Robinson, Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia, ACT; Helena Rodi, Program Manager, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC.
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