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Nurses and doctor at bedside of elderly woman

Advance care planning

Advance care planning helps you to make plans for your future medical treatment and care needs.

You can create an advance care plan that may include:

  • an Advance (Health or Care) Directive (or other similar document)
  • an enduring power of attorney (or other similar document)
  • a letter to the person who will be responsible for your decision making
  • an entry in your medical record
  • instructions which clearly voice your view.

The advance care planning process encourages you to reflect on what is important to you, your beliefs, values, goals and preferences in life. It explains how you want to be cared for if you reach a point where you cannot communicate decisions about your medical care. It keeps you involved in your medical decisions, both now and in the future, whether you are healthy or have an illness.

Advance care planning becomes important should you become so ill that you are no longer able to make decisions or communicate about your medical and care needs. By creating a plan in advance, your doctors and family can understand how you would like to be cared for. Your family and friends will find it easier to make informed decisions on your behalf, because you have explained your wishes.

Each state and territory has different names for the legal documents you can use to create an advance care plan. These can be obtained, along with general information on advance care planning, from Advanced Care Planning Australia (Respecting Patient Choices). Additionally Start2talk by Dementia Australia provides information on planning ahead if you develop a condition such as dementia which affects memory and planning abilities.

Last reviewed: 30 June, 2015.