Advance Care Planning is a process that helps you to plan for future medical care. This process involves thinking about your values and beliefs and your wishes about what medical care you would like to have if you cannot make your own decisions.
An important part of the planning process is to discuss your wishes with your family and other people who are close to you, as well as talking to your General Practitioner or other health professionals about any medical conditions you have.
You may also choose to write down your wishes in an Advance Care Directive, sometimes called a ‘Living Will’.
Advance Care Planning is a way to make sure that people who are involved in your life understand your wishes about medical treatment and care. This will help to guide them if you become seriously ill or injured and cannot make your own decisions about medical care. Like making a Will or appointing an Enduring Guardian, Advance Care Planning is an important part of planning ahead.
You can start to talk about Advance Care Planning anytime, as part of general discussions about your health or medical care. Many people start to think about Advance Care Planning because they have health problems or a serious illness which will get worse over time. However, Advance Care Planning can also guide families and health professionals if you have an unexpected accident or illness.
Advance Care Planning is a process that occurs over time, and may be reviewed when your situation changes. You must have capacity to make an Advance Care Directive.
Advance Care Planning is not a single process or simply completion of a form. Advance Care Planning should include:
- Talking to your family and other people close to you about your wishes, values and beliefs about medical care and treatment towards the end of your life
- Talking to your doctor and other health professionals about any medical or health issues you have, what treatments are available and what choices you would like to make about your medical care
- Thinking about what ‘Living Well’ means to you and what treatments you would want to have that may prolong your life, and what treatments you would refuse
- Knowing who would make medical decisions for you (the Person Responsible) if you were unable to make your own decisions
- Writing down your wishes.
As part of the Advance Care Planning process, you may decide to write an Advance Care Directive. An Advance Care Directive records your specific wishes about treatment that you would like to have in the event of life-threatening illness or injury, and any treatments you would refuse.
There is no specific form to use for an Advance Care Directive. Go to the ‘More Information’ tab below for some examples of Advance Care Directive forms. You can use any of these examples, or simply write a letter or statement about your wishes. It is a good idea to discuss your wishes and treatment options with your treating doctor. You can request that your Enduring Guardian refer to your Advance Care Plan or Directive before making any medical or health decisions.
Your treating doctor will consider your Advance Care Directive to be valid if:
- You had capacity when you wrote it
- It has specific details about treatments that you would accept or refuse
- It is current (it was not written a long time ago and you have not changed your mind since writing it)
- You were not influenced or pressured by anyone else when you wrote it.
Doctors and health care professionals will only refer to your Advance Care Directive if you are unable to make your own decisions.
You should keep your Advance Care Directive in a place that is easily accessible for you or for others to obtain if needed. Keeping a copy close to you (such as in your wallet) is sometimes suggested. You should also give a copy of your Advance Care Directive to your Person Responsible, doctor, health care facility, family members or other important people in your life. Remember to give updated copies to these people whenever you change your Advance Care Directive.
You can update or re-write you Advance Care Directive whenever you like as long as you have capacity. It is a good idea to read over anything you have written once a year to make sure it is still current. You may also change your Advance Care Directive if your health needs or life circumstances change. Make sure you sign and date your directive when you have reviewed it so health professionals know that it is current.
Remember to give updated copies to your Person Responsible, doctor, health care facility, family members or other important people in your life whenever you review your Advance Care Directive.
For more information on Advance Care Planning, please visit one of the links below:
- Advance Care Directive Association - My Health, My Future, My Choice
- South Western Sydney Local Health District – My Wishes
- Department of Health – Advance Care Planning (PDF)
- Central Coast Local Health District – Advance Care Planning