While most people are aware of how important it is to have a Will when they pass away, what’s less well known, but possibly more important, is having an advance care plan.
An advance care plan can help ensure that you receive the treatment you want according to your choices in the context of your life.
With this week being National Advance Care Planning Week (March 21-27), it’s an excellent opportunity to find out more about this important health topic.
The director of Queensland’s Statewide Office of Advance Care Planning, Professor Liz Reymond, says her free government service recently celebrated its milestone of receiving 100,000 Advance Care Plan (ACP) documents from Queensland residents, since July 1, 2016.
“Preparing an ACP isn’t always about death – it’s also about your life and how you want to live it,” Reymond says.
“Such plans can be used to ensure your wishes, values, beliefs and future healthcare preferences are known, in case you become incapable of consenting or refusing healthcare for yourself.
“There is no doubt conversations about dying and death can be confronting and emotional, but they’re very valuable to have ahead of time.
Reymond says as hard as the conversation can be, it will save loved ones from having to make difficult decisions on your behalf, without knowing your wishes.
“Your doctor can provide information and outline possible options for you, the implications of your choices and clarify what might happen if you want to receive or refuse certain kinds of medical treatment,” Reymond says.
“This is particularly important for people who are already suffering from a terminal illness.”
Reymond says having a discussion with your carers, family and trusted friends about your future medical treatment and care, and documenting it, is vital.
“It is most useful to have these discussions in a timely and considered fashion, rather than at the time of a health crisis, where emotions can run high.
“Once you have made your decisions, it is important to document them so that your nominated decision-maker and healthcare team are fully aware of your wishes if you lose capacity and can no longer communicate clearly.
“These documents should then be shared with your family and anyone else who may be involved in your care…”
Reymond says the prevalence of ACP documentation in Australians aged over 65 years was low, at just 29 per cent.
“We’d like to see that number rise, for your sake and the sake of your loved ones,” she says.
“It is important to remember you can review your plan at any time.
“Your decisions are not set in stone and may need to be updated for any number of reasons including a change in your medical circumstances, a change in your living arrangements, or simply a shift in your beliefs or values.”
The My Care, My Choices Advance Care Planning website is a great source of information on advance care planning, advice on completing ACP documents and resources to help guide people’s planning process.