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Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Advance Care Planning Coordinator, Maree White

Plan for the future to live for today

12 Jun 2020

 

If you were too unwell to speak for yourself, who would speak for you?

Illness or serious injury can sometimes mean that people cannot make their own decisions about the healthcare they receive.

Advance care planning helps to ensure that your loved ones and doctors know your preferences, values and beliefs about your medical treatment if you can no longer speak for yourself or make your own decisions. An Advance Care Directive is only used when a person loses the capacity to make or express their preferences.

Almost fifty percent of people will be unable to make their own end-of-life decisions.

Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Advance Care Planning Coordinator, Maree White says advance care planning is important for people of all ages.

“Everyone should have an advance care plan. No one knows what the future holds for their health and unfortunately, unexpected events do happen,” says Ms White, who works at the District’s Supportive and Palliative Care Service.

Advance care planning is particularly important for people who are older and are frail, people who have a chronic illness or an early cognitive impairment and people who are approaching their end of life.

Making healthcare decisions for others can be difficult and stressful. Ensuring your loved ones know your wishes can help to ease anxiety in the event they’re asked to make important decisions for you.

“Ultimately, if your loved ones don’t know your preferences, your wishes may not be achieved. Advance care planning gives you back some control over your healthcare or end of life journey,” says Ms White.

Advance care planning is a process involving reflection, conversation and, ideally, documentation.

Ms White says there are some crucial steps involved in advance care planning. Firstly, consider your values, beliefs and preferences in health now and in the future.

“What’s important to you? What gives your life value and meaning? For instance, would you want to continue receiving medical care if you could no longer communicate or eat?” asks Ms White.

Next, choose a substitute decision-maker. Your substitute decision-maker will be asked to make medical treatment decisions on your behalf if you’re not able to do so.

Ms White advises that your substitute decision-maker doesn’t have to be your partner or next of kin.

“Choose someone who is willing to be your decision-maker, someone who is able to represent what you would want and someone you trust.”

Be sure to communicate your advance care plan with your substitute decision-maker and write it down in an Advance Care Directive, a document to share with your substitute decision-maker, family, GP or other healthcare professionals.

Mostly importantly, says Ms White, make an advance care plan while you’re healthy.

“You just don’t know what’s going to happen with your health. Advance care planning will give you some control over the level of medical intervention you receive and help to ease the stress of your loved ones, should they need to make decisions for you,” Ms White says.

 Visit advancecareplanning.org.au for more information.