Advance Care Planning is a way of thinking about, discussing and writing down your wishes for care and treatment should the time come when you are unable to speak for yourself due to illness or injury. There are different ways of doing this.
Many people make provision for managing their financial and real estate management by appointing a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney (including Enduring Power of Attorney) is a legal document authorizing someone else to carry out business, financial or property affairs on a person’s behalf. A general Power of Attorney ceases to have effect once the person loses mental capacity to make these decisions for themselves. An Enduring Power of Attorney remains valid once the person loses capacity. The decisions that an Enduring Power of Attorney can make do not extend to healthcare and lifestyle decisions.
In regard to health and lifestyle decisions, a person may make their wishes known by appointing someone to act on their behalf. This person is known as an Enduring Guardian. An Enduring Guardian can also provide consent (or withhold it) for medical treatment; based on your known wishes. They can also determine which services you receive and decide where you will live. An Enduring Guardianship appointment does not include authority to make financial decisions such as real estate or share transactions.
Individuals may wish to additionally document their wishes for care and treatment by completing an Advance Care Directive, while they are still able to do this for themselves, or if unable (because of injury or advanced illness such as dementia) a Plan of Care can be developed in partnership with the treating doctor and those close to the person such as family and/or friends.
An Advance Care Directive ('Living Will') is a written statement regarding someone's wishes for their future health care. An Advance Care Directive can be made now by anyone who has the capacity to do so. An Advance Care Directive is only used if, at some point in the future, the person becomes incapable of making health care decisions for themselves (due to illness or injury).
Many people wish to have a say in their future medical treatment should they have a serious illness or injury. Families, friends and carers are often grateful and value the opportunity to discuss and better understand what a patient’s wishes are. Health care professionals can benefit from knowing the expressed wishes of their patients/clients. An Advance Care Directive can assist in avoiding, or at least reducing, a great deal of physical and emotional suffering, brought about by unwanted treatment, at a given point when the focus of care and treatment may be towards providing comfort and alleviating any significant distress.
Click here to read more about our publication on Advance Care Directives: My Health, My Future, My Choice and how to obtain a copy.
If a person is incapable of having a discussion around their future health and personal care and this situation is irreversible there may come a point where a Plan of Care will provide a good foundation for future care. It is not specific to relate to every possible scenario but guides the aims of care. The Plan of Care can outline what treatment is to be provided (and where if possible ie at home or the aged care facility or hospital) in the event that the person deteriorates further. This Plan of Care can include decisions made such as Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation, Levels of Treatment and Feeding.