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Advanced Care Directives or ‘Living Wills’

Advanced Care Directives

Advanced care directives are sometimes known as ‘living wills’ or health directives.

An advance care directive is a written record of your preferences for any future health or medical care. It can be an expression of your values, your goals or directions about care and treatments. Advance care directives can also formally appoint a substitute decision-maker (see medical power of attorney for more information). Each Australian state and territory has different legislation so check here for your State or Territory’s forms.

Advance care planning is best done when you are healthy as this allows time to think about the preferences for care based on your own values in life. This is the time to think about these matters, to discuss them with friends and family and to write them down in the appropriate from. It is particularly important to have these matters recorded before becoming frail due to age or chronic illness or suffering any cognitive impairment.

To Make a Plan

Think about the things in your life that are most imoprtant to you: they may include spending time with family, friends, travelling, spending time at home, having music in your life or accomplishing something special. A plan may well include ensuring people special to you are cared for in the event that you are not able to do so.  This might well be the time to consider organ donation as well. Another part of the plan might include how and where you would like to be cared for during an illness, whether terminal or not.

Discuss these plans with those close to you and with any health professionals with whom you are in contact, so that in the event that you can’t communicate, they know your needs. Choose someone (a substitute decision-maker) you trust implicitly to carry out your wishes in the event that you can’t express them yourself. This person needs to be informed of the responsibility they have in order to consent to undertake it and it can be formalised through appointing them as a power of attorney. After this it’s time to record your plan in the appropriate form of your State or Territory.

Who Should You Share It With?

Make sure your substitute decision-maker has a copy. If you have medical practitioners and health professionals you see regularly share it with them and ensure it is in your medical records. (Hopefully with the growing use of electronic health records this will be a one-step process).

You Can Change an Advanced Care Plan

One of the reasons these plans are sometimes called Living Wills is because they can be changed as you and your life circumstances change. The main thing is to document any minor changes or to write a completely new plan, ensure others know about it and that it replaces the older one.

For more help

Check out Advance Care Planning Australia