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What you need to know this Advance Care Planning Week

22 March 2021

Austin Health’s Advance Care Planning Coordinator, Kathy Whiteside, explains what Advance Care Planning is and why it’s so important.

“Advance care planning gives people the opportunity to plan for their future care and medical treatment," says Kathy.

This includes things like planning out how and what medical care you would like to receive or which person can make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do this yourself.

Advance Care Planning encompasses a range of options including:

  • appointing someone to make medical treatment decisions for you
  • appointing someone to support you to make medical treatment decisions
  • and making an Advance Care Directive.

Kathy says it’s important to think about your beliefs and preferences for care, including end-of-life care.

“I know it’s not a pleasant thing to think about or talk about, but it’s just so important.

“I want to encourage everyone to be discuss their wishes with their loved ones and health care professionals. 

“It’s hard for family members or friends to make medical decisions on someone else's behalf with no knowledge of what their loved one would have wanted,” says Kathy.

Kathy also adds that from the perspective of a heath care professional, having access to an Advance Care Directive, made by a patient when they had decision making capacity, gives peace of mind that the way we are caring for the patient is in line with their values and preferences.

“Advance Care Planning is important because it extends a person's autonomy and voice beyond the point at which they would have otherwise lost the ability to have a say in their health care,” she says.

She also points out that an Advance Care Directive can only be enacted when the patient has lost capacity to make their own medical treatment decisions.

“This means you have control, throughout your continuum of care.”

Kathy says that anyone who has the capacity to make their own medical treatment decisions should create an Advance Care Directive.

She especially recommends it for:

  • People who are socially isolated - who have no one that knows their preferences and values should they lose the ability to make decisions
  • People with progressive neurological disorders - who may lose the ability to make or communicate decisions
  • People with a diagnosis of a terminal illness 
  • People transitioning into residential aged care facilities.

You can find more information on how to create your plan here: 

Watch Advance Care Planning Australia's video that highlights the importance of knowing your loved ones future health care preferences: