Advance care planning
What is Advance Care Planning?
It’s an important process where individuals discuss their wishes for end of life healthcare with those close to them and/or their healthcare team, in case they become too unwell to make decisions or speak for themselves. Although talking about your wishes is important, some people also write them down using an Advance Health Directive or Statement of Choices Form.
Another important part of Advance Care Planning is giving someone you trust the legal right to make decisions about your financial, lifestyle and healthcare if you’re unable to do so. An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) or an Enduring Guardian (EG) can be appointed for healthcare or financial matters, or both. Legislation and documents may vary from state to state. If you appoint an EPA or EG it’s important you talk to them about your wishes so they can speak for you in the event you’re unable to.
You can begin the process of Advance Care Planning at any time regardless of whether you have a medical condition. Most people find they need to have more than one conversation with those close to them and/or their healthcare team before they’re ready to write anything down. Starting early is a good idea as it gives you time to learn about your choices and think about what you might want.
Why should people do Advance Care Planning?
Advance Care Planning gives people more control over their healthcare. For people with serious illnesses, having open conversations with family and healthcare professionals about the way they wish to live and be cared for is important.
These conversations help health professionals and families understand a person’s goals and preferences and what an acceptable quality of life is to them. This will allow healthcare professionals and families to make better decisions for a person who is unable to make decisions for themselves.
It’s also beneficial for people to have conversations about the care they want at the end of life while they are well or undergoing treatment, and not just at times of crisis. It can relieve anxiety about the future and provide peace of mind.
When does an Advance Care Plan come into effect?
An Advance Care Plan only comes into effect in the event a person becomes so unwell they lose the ability to make or communicate decisions about their healthcare.
Practical advice for Advance Care Planning
Advance Care Planning documents apply across all healthcare settings (i.e. hospital, GP, community health centres).
For people who have not appointed an EPA, an individual close to you usually automatically becomes your Statutory Health Attorney because of their relationship with you. By law, it’s the first available and culturally appropriate adult from the following: a spouse or de facto partner (as long as the relationship is close and continuing); a person who is responsible for your primary care, but isn’t a paid professional carer; or a close friend or relative over the age of 18. If you live on your own and don’t have a primary carer, it’s best if you nominate an EPA to avoid difficulties in identifying the appropriate Statutory Health Attorney for you.
If you’d like to complete an Advance Health Directive, Statement of Choices form, or nominate an Enduring Power of Attorney or an Enduring Guardian, speak with your general practitioner or haematologist, and solicitor or the Public Trustee. You may also like to visit the Legal matters section of our website, which gives more information about Wills and an Enduring Power of Attorney.
You may also find the following websites useful:
- Advance Care Planning Australia
- Powers of Attorney (information for each state in Australia)
- Respecting patient choices
The Leukaemia Foundation would like to thank the following people for their help in compiling this information:
Elise Button – RN, PhD Nurse Researcher, Cancer Care Services, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital
Allison Lovell – BN MHM FCHSM, Project Manager for Care at the End of Life, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital
Last updated on June 10th, 2020
Developed by the Leukaemia Foundation in consultation with people living with a blood cancer, Leukaemia Foundation support staff, haematology nursing staff and/or Australian clinical haematologists. This content is provided for information purposes only and we urge you to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis, treatment and answers to your medical questions, including the suitability of a particular therapy, service, product or treatment in your circumstances. The Leukaemia Foundation shall not bear any liability for any person relying on the materials contained on this website.