Talking about what may happen as we approach the end of our lives is not an everyday conversation. For some of us, picturing what things might look like if people need to speak on our behalf is overwhelming. This article is here to help unpack what Advance Care Planning can really mean for you.
1. It is for everyone
Advance Care Planning is exactly what it sounds like – it is the process of making a plan ahead of time and is recommended for anyone over the age of 18. According to Advance Care Planning Australia, it is a way to ‘ensure your loved ones and doctors know what your health and personal preferences really are’. Did you know that 85% of people die after chronic illness, not as the result of a sudden event? However, Advance Care Planning is not just for those who are terminally ill. In fact the opposite can be said to be true. There are two main questions that frame the process;
a. If you were unwell who would you want to speak for you AND
b. What you want them to say.
2. It’s about you
It is normal to feel uneasy when the subjects of illness and dying are raised. Advance Care Planning means you can manage the variables that are in your control. It provides a chance to consider the things important to you, ahead of time. This could include your personal beliefs, cultural practices and preferences regarding your health care are known and respected if you become to unwell too communicate.
3. It’s not just about you
Making healthcare decisions for others can be stressful and difficult. Having your health care preferences in writing makes things a lot easier for everyone. Research shows that families of people who have done Advance Care Planning have less anxiety and stress when asked to make important healthcare decisions.
4. It doesn’t have to involve family
An Advance Care Plan provides you with the option to determine who will be the decision makers for your care. For some, putting family members in this position wouldn’t be their preference. The process asks you to consider a number of different people who could fill this role. This could include friends, legal counsel, a contact in the health sector, or even a religious adviser. It is important you speak with whoever you choose to be your voice to ensure they are happy to communicate on your behalf.
Who should have a copy of your Advance Care Plan:
Once finalised, ensure you make copies of your Advance Care Plan and store them with those below who are applicable;
- Your designated decision makers
- Your GP/local doctors office
- Your specialist/s
- Your residential aged care home
- Your hospital
5. Your legal obligations
Different states and territories in Australia have different legal requirements on Advanced Care Planning. Before you get started, visiting www.advancecareplanning.org.au to understand the law in your own state/territory.
6. Who can help?
Advance Care Planning gets you to consider some tough questions but there is assistance available. healthAbility together with your GP, can complete your Advance Care Plan with you. For more information and to get started contact Fiona Bremner on email Fiona.Bremner@healthability.org.au or call 9430 9100.
For more information, you can also visit www.advancecareplanning.org.au or call the National Advisory Service on 1300 208 582.
If this article has raised issues for your or someone you know, support is available. For immediate help contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. You also have the option to arrange counselling through our counselling services by contacting us.