Advance Care Planning – encompassing your Advance Care Directive and Appointed Medical Decision Maker – It’s never too early or too late – to plan for your future healthcare needs. Advance Care Planning is about making your wishes known in case you can’t speak for yourself. It’s a way to ensure that you receive the kind of medical care that you want, and your family and friends know your wishes.
Advance Care Planning is a process, not a one-time event. You can start the conversation at any age and at any stage of health. You may have already started thinking and talking about your healthcare wishes with your family and friends. If so, you’re on your way to Advance Care Planning!
What is Advance Care Planning?
Advance Care Planning (ACP) is a process of discussing and documenting your wishes for future medical care, in the event you are unable to make or communicate those decisions yourself. It is a way of ensuring that your loved ones and healthcare providers are aware of your preferences, and can make decisions in line with them should the need arise.
ACP can be a difficult conversation to have, but it is an important one. It allows you to think about – and express – your wishes for care, and to have that conversation with your loved ones and healthcare team before a crisis occurs. It can also provide peace of mind, knowing that your wishes will be followed.
There is no right or wrong way to do ACP. It is an individual process, and what works for one person may not work for another. The most important thing is to do it in a way that feels comfortable for you.
There are many resources available to help you with Advance Care Planning. Your doctor or other healthcare provider should be able to provide information and support. There are also many online resources, such as Advance Care Planning Australia.
The first step in Advance Care Planning is to think about your values and preferences for future care. This can be a difficult process, and you may not know where to start. But there are some questions you can ask yourself to help get the conversation started:
- What is important to me?
- What kind of medical treatment do I want or not want?
- What are my beliefs and values around end-of-life care?
- Who do I want to make decisions on my behalf, if I am unable to do so myself?
Once you have considered your values and preferences, the next step is to start talking about them with your loved ones and healthcare team. This will help ensure that they are aware of your wishes, and can act on them should the need arise. ACP is an ongoing process, and your wishes may change over time. It is important to review your plan regularly, and update them if your wishes change.
What are the benefits of Advance Care Planning?
When it comes to our health and wellbeing, we all want to have a say in what happens – especially when it comes to life-sustaining treatment or end-of-life care. Advance Care Planning can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones, as it can save your loved ones from having to make difficult decisions on your behalf.
Advance Care Planning can also lessen the burden on your loved ones financially, as they will not have to pay for treatment that you do not want or that is not in your best interests.
Overall, Advance Care Planning gives you control over your health and wellbeing. It can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones, and can save you and your family from difficult decisions and financial burden.
Recording your choices in Victoria
Appointment of a Medical Decision Maker
The first step is to complete the Appointment of a Medical Decision Maker form. This is a trusted relative or friend you choose to manage your health care. The person you appoint becomes your substitute decision-maker if you are no longer able to make decisions. You can name anyone you want as your medical decision maker, as long as they are over the age of 18 and willing to take on the responsibility. This Checklist of Steps for Appointing Your Medical Treatment Decision Maker will help you complete the form.
The forms have certain criteria that must be met when they are filled out and witnessed. The person you have chosen to make medical decisions on your behalf must agree to this responsibility by signing the form.
Your medical decision maker can give or deny consent for treatments on your behalf, as long as they abide by any legal restrictions or limitations outlined in the form. They are obligated to make decisions based on what they believe you would choose if you were able to decide for yourself. Therefore, it is beneficial to have a conversation with them about your values and any preferences you may have.
Advance Care Directive
An Advance Care Directive documents your individual desires for future medical care, outlining the treatments you would agree to or decline if you were to face a life-threatening illness or injury. It will only come into effect when you are unable to make your own decisions or express your preferences.
To make an ACD use the Advance Care Directive for Adults form. To assist you in completing the form, use this guide. The completion of the forms requires specific instructions to be followed. They must be witnessed by both a medical practitioner and another adult.
Your ACD can include:
- legally binding instructions stating future medical treatment you consent or don’t consent to
- a values directive detailing your values and preferences for your medical treatment decision maker to consider when making decisions for you
In your Advance Care Directive, you can provide specific instructions about particular medical treatments. For instance, you may request that life-prolonging treatments such as tube feeding or resuscitation are not administered or withdrawn in the following circumstances:
- you have a terminal illness with no known cure or chance of recovery,
- you have severe and irreversible brain damage and are unable to communicate, or
- you have a severe illness or injury from which you are unlikely to recover.
Making changes to your Advance Care Planning documents
It is recommended to review your ACP documents regularly, especially if your healthcare needs and/or personal circumstances change. Providing you still have decision making capacity, you can update, amend or revoke your ACP documents at anytime by writing directly on the document and provide updated copies to your appointed medical decision maker and family members. Your Advance Care Directive ends the moment you complete a new ACD, revoke it, or you die. Your medical decision maker appointment ends if you revoke their duties, they are incapable of carrying out your instructions, they resign from the appointment or you die.
You should store your Advance Care Planning documents in a safe and known place. You can upload them to My Health Record, share copies with your medical decision maker, family and gp as well as carrying an Advance Care Directive Victoria card in your wallet. Advance care planning is about person-centred care and is based on fundamental principles of self-determination, dignity and the avoidance of suffering. This can be an invaluable tool for you and your family, in the event of a medical emergency.
Start the conversation with your family about your wishes for future medical care today, so that they are prepared to make decisions on your behalf, if necessary.
If you would like to chat to one of our friendly team members call 1300 33 11 03 today!