What is an Advance Care Plans and why should I have one?


With last week being Advance Care Planning week, now is a great time to open up a conversation about what an advance care plan is, why you should have an advance care plan and how to make one. Everyone should consider having an advance care plan in place, but they are particularly important those who are elderly, frail, terminally ill or have chronic medical conditions.  

But first, exactly what is advance care planning? Have you ever thought about what would happen if you became unable to communicate your own wishes around your health care? Advance care planning is the process of making these decisions and documenting what should happen around your medical care if you lose the capacity to make decisions or communicate your preferences, and is often related to the care you receive at the end of your life. 

While the conversation around advance care plans can be difficult, it is an important one that ultimately will benefit you, your family and your health care providers in the event you cannot speak for yourself. There is a lot to consider – you need to think about what treatments you would or would not want, and outcomes and quality of life that you would find acceptable. For example, if you were suffering from an incurable disease, you may wish to specify no resuscitation or feeding tubes. Advance Care Planning Australia has some useful tips for how to start the conversation about your advance care plan. 

So now that we know what advance care planning is, why should you have an advance care plan? 

According to Advance Care Planning Australia, the benefits of advance care planning are as follows: 

  • Both ongoing and end of life care is better 
  • Higher levels of satisfaction, both personally and for your loved ones 
  • Less stress, depression and anxiety, and higher levels of satisfaction with care are experienced by the families of those who have advance care plans in place 
  • Less transfers to acute care and fewer unwanted treatments  
  • It helps to ensure that you get the care you want 

The benefits of having an advance care plan are clear. How do you set up an advance care plan? 

The process for setting up an advance care plan varies from state to state in Australia. Regardless of where you live, it is important that you discuss your plan with your doctor, family and friends and any other health care or support workers. You also need to ensure your decisions are recorded, and that you appoint a person to make decisions on your behalf.  

In Queensland, there are three ways to set up an advance care plan:  

  • Complete an Enduring Power of Attorney 
  • Complete an Advance Healthcare Directive 
  • Complete a Statement of choices 

You can access more information, and the relevant forms at the Advance Care Planning Australia website

If you don’t live in Queensland, you can find information and forms for your relevant state here