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.
You may choose to document your wishes for health and personal care by completing an Advance Care Directive, while you are still able to do this for yourself. If you are unable, because of injury or advanced illness such as dementia, to complete an Advance Care Directive, then a Plan of Care can be used. This should be written by your Enduring Guardian or substitute decision maker in partnership with your treating doctor/s and those close to you such as family and/or friends.
In regard to health and personal care decisions, you can make your wishes known by appointing someone to act on your behalf. This person is known as an Enduring Guardian. This person will only act when you have lost capacity to make your own decisions. An Enduring Guardian can also provide consent (or withhold it) for medical treatment; based on your known wishes. An Enduring Guardianship appointment does not include authority to make financial decisions such as real estate or share transactions.
Many people make provision for managing their financial and real estate 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 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.
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 and become unable to articulate their wishes. Families, friends and carers will often value the opportunity to discuss and better understand what a patient’s wishes are. This will help them to make decisions when the person has lost capacity to do this for themselves. Health care professionals can also benefit from knowing the expressed wishes of their patients/clients. An Advance Care Directive can also assist in avoiding, or at least reducing, unwanted treatment.
Click here to read more about our publication on Advance Care Directives: My Health, My Future, My Choice and how to order your hardcopy or download a free copy.
If a person does not have an Advance Care Directive and has reached a stage where they are incapable of having a discussion about their future health and personal care - a Plan of Care may provide a good foundation for their future care. The Plan of Care can outline what treatment is to be provided and where; that is, at home, in the aged care facility or in hospital. This Plan of Care can include preferences with regard to Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation, Levels of Treatment and Types of Feeding etc.
Click here to read more about A Plan of Care, to order your hard copy or download a free copy.