What is it?
An advance care directive (ACD), also known a living will, contains instructions about the type and level of health care a terminally ill or injured person wishes to receive when they are no longer able to make decisions or indicate their wishes themselves. Advance care planning involves appointing a substitute decision-maker and completing an ACD, which will guide your family and doctors to make decisions that align with your values and preferences.
Why is it important?
As difficult as it may be, it is important for all of us to talk about dying and death and what our preferences are for treatment and care at any stage of life. But it becomes particularly important for those who are caring for someone at the end of their life. You need to know information such as what specific treatment the person wants, where they want to die, who they want around them and who will speak on their behalf if they are unable to speak for themselves. If this planning is done well and communicated to all involved (family members, GP, palliative care nurses, aged-care staff etc.), unnecessary treatments and hospital visits can be avoided and the person dying can be confident that their dying wishes will be respected.
When do I access it?
Advance care planning is a good idea for older, frail people and those who have a chronic illness, multiple diseases, an early cognitive impairment or are approaching the end of their life. But anyone can put an ACD in place, even if they are not elderly or ill. Planning ahead gives the person, their family and those caring for them peace of mind.
How do I access it?
The documentation and requirements for recording these wishes and appointing a proxy decision-maker differ in each state and territory. Visit Advanced Care Planning Australia (ACPA) at www.advancecareplanning.org.au for more information and access to the relevant forms. You can also call the ACPA national advisory service on 1300 208 582 with any questions.
MyValues is a set of specially constructed statements designed to help you identify, consider and communicate your wishes about the medical treatment you would want in the later stages of life. It enables you to create a free online profile – explaining your values in relation to life, death and medical intervention – that you can share with your family and doctors. MyValues is a Victorian Government-supported initiative.