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Advance care planning
It can be a good idea to take some time to plan for your future medical treatment and care, and to discuss your preferences and values with your family, friends and health care team.
Learn more about:
- What is advance care planning?
- What can advance care planning involve?
- Steps in advance care planning
What is advance care planning?
This process of discussing future care and preparing any necessary documents is called advance care planning. It ensures that your family and health care team know and respect your treatment wishes if you can’t make decisions for yourself (also called losing decision-making capacity) or if you are unable to communicate your wishes for any reason. As well as giving you peace of mind, studies show that families of people who have done advance care planning feel less anxiety and stress when asked to make important health decisions for them.
What can advance care planning involve?
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. at home if possible)
- completing an Advance Care Directive
- appointing a substitute decision-maker.
Advance care planning may be confronting, but it doesn’t mean that you have given up or will die soon – the process gives you the security to know that you have formalised plans for the future, and that you can now focus on treatment and living.
Any advance care planning documents you make can be as simple or as detailed as you like. If you have religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs that may affect your health care decisions, you can record these in your advance care planning documents.
In all States and Territories except the ACT, Advance Care Directives are only used if there comes a time when you can’t make decisions for yourself. You need to be able to make clear decisions (have capacity) to complete an Advance Care Directive, as it is a legal document.
You can change an Advance Care Directive at any time.
Call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 if you feel anxious about planning.
Steps in advance care planning
1.Talk to othersUse one of the following guides to help you think about your preferences and discuss them with family and friends:
2. Record your treatment goalsMany hospitals have their own forms for you to use. If not, you can find information relevant to your state or territory at Advance Care Planning Australia.
Documents must include:
3. Make copies
Dr Lucy Gately, Medical Oncologist, Alfred Health and Walter and Eliza Institute for Medical Research, VIC; Dr Katherine Allsopp, Supportive and Palliative Care Specialist, Westmead Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Megan Best, The University of Notre Dame Australia and The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Keiron Bradley, Palliative Care Consultant, Medical Director Palliative Care Program, Bethesda Health Care, WA; Craig Brewer, Consumer; Emeritus Professor Phyllis Butow, Psychologist, The University of Sydney and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Louise Durham, Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner Outpatients, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Metro South Palliative Care, QLD; Dr Roya Merie, Radiation Oncologist, ICON Cancer Centre, Concord, NSW; Penny Neller, Project Coordinator, National Palliative Care Projects, Australian Centre for Health Law Research, Queensland University of Technology, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Xanthe Sansome, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC; Sparke Helmore Lawyers; Peter Spolc, Consumer.
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