Being prepared for future possibilities is an important part of life. All of us, regardless of health or age, should make known our health preferences to prepare – as much as possible – for all sorts of future events. Of course, it can be especially important for people with an advanced chronic or life-limiting illness, or anyone old enough to be at risk of losing competence.
Last week, a national awareness initiative called Advanced Care Planning Week challenged us all to start heartfelt conversations with people we’re close to about what ‘living well’ means to us. This includes thinking about who we’d want to speak for us if we were somehow unable to speak for ourselves. It goes beyond filling in a form – it’s a two-way street with a commitment to honour an individual’s preferences based on their personal values, and beliefs.
An advanced care directive is only used if we’re unable to make or communicate decisions. It’s then used to guide decisions by medical staff in consultation with an appointed substitute decision-maker if one has been nominated, and/or family. Otherwise, when there’s serious illness and no directive, doctors have to make treatment decisions based on their assessment of a person’s best interests – and perhaps include unwanted treatments.
Completing an advance care directive reassures and empowers the people making them, their nearest and dearest, and medical professionals because it gives everyone a clear idea of what someone wants in the event of illness, injury or incapacity. It means better outcomes for all involved.
Visit the Advance Care Planning Australia website at https://www.advancecareplanning.org.au/ which offers many useful resources including FAQs, case studies, fact sheets, guides and forms. Or call the advisory service on 1300 208 582 weekdays 9am-5pm.