What is advance care planning?
Advance care planning is the process of planning your future health care in case you are unable to make or communicate your decisions. It can also include provisions for end-of-life care. An advance care plan ensures that the people who need to know what your health and care choices are can make decisions based on your plan, including when you die.
When to do advance care planning.
All adults are encouraged to consider making advance care plans. You can start advance care planning at any age. You don't have to be sick. Healthy people are encouraged to think about their health and care preferences and discuss them with their family, friends and healthcare team.
Advance care planning is especially important for people who:
have a chronic illness
have multiple diseases
have an early cognitive impairment
are approaching the end of their life.
What does an advance care plan involve?
Advance care planning can be easy with the right guidance and support network.
The first steps you can take are to:
Appoint a medical treatment decision maker: You can appoint someone you trust to make decisions for you when you are unable to do so. This person may or may not be a family member. You can also choose a support person to help you make decisions for yourself, such as by collecting information or helping you communicate.
Talk to your family, friends and doctors about your values, beliefs and healthcare preferences. Tell them about what is important for you. Also, talk to your doctor or other health professionals to find out more about what might be ahead.
If there is something you feel strongly about, you can write it down in a written plan or directive, or in a letter describing your healthcare preferences.
In Victoria, advance care planning involves:
completing an advance care directive
choosing a medical treatment decision maker
choosing a support person.
Advance care directives
Advance care directives are legal documents containing your wishes. They include one or both of the following:
Instructional directive, with specific information about which treatments you do and do not consent to
Values directive, with information about your views and values
The Victorian Government has standard advance care planning forms that are free to download and do not require a lawyer.
Once completed, an advance care directive can be:
given to the nominated medical treatment decision maker and support person
given to your GP
given to you palliative care team or district nurse
kept with other important documents or belongings that might go with you to hospital
given to the care planning team at Ambulance Victoria
given to a residential facility manager
uploaded to MyHealthRecord for access by a health care provider.
The more people that have it, the more likely it is to be honoured.
Cancelling or changing an advance care directive
An advance care directive can be cancelled by creating a new one or revoking it using the Victorian Government’s standard form. Medical treatment decision makers and support persons can be revoked and new ones appointed, too.
This information is general guidance and may not be applicable to your specific circumstances. For personal advice, please contact a medical or legal practitioner or a spiritual, cultural or community leader.
This content was written for people in Victoria, Australia. Laws and practices differ in other states, territories and countries.