Why you need to plan for a time you don’t want to think about

It’s not a subject that anyone approaches with a song in their heart, but have you made an advance care plan?

According to Advance Care Planning Australia (ACPA), more than 50 per cent of Australians will not be able to make their own medical decisions at the end of life, yet only 15 per cent of people will have an advance care plan or directive. 

During National Advance Care Planning Week, ACPA and Dementia Australia are urging everyone to have brave conversations about their future health preferences in case there comes a time when they can no longer express their wishes.

Dementia Australia chief executive Maree McCabe says it’s vital to have important conversations when you are well enough to make important decisions.

“In 2023, it is estimated that there are more than 400,000 Australians living with dementia,” Ms McCabe said.

“Without a medical breakthrough, the number of people with dementia is expected to double by 2058. 

“Each and every one of us should have an advance care plan and this becomes even more compelling in the face of diseases such as dementia and other life-limiting diseases.”

So what is a plan? 

At the basic level, a plan allows you to make some decisions now about the healthcare you would want in the future.

ACPA’s preferred outcome would be for everyone to have a documented plan and a substitute decision-maker to ensure their preferences are respected.  

However, there are two distinct pathways – an advance care directive and an advance care plan.

What is the difference?

An advance care directive is created by you to include your preferred directions about care and treatments and you can also formally appoint a substitute decision-maker. 

It is a legally binding document, and the requirements vary between states and territories.

An advance care plan is created by someone on behalf of a person with diminished or no capacity to make decisions for themselves.

It can be helpful for substitute decision-makers and health practitioners, but is not legally binding. 

Some states and territories provide forms to help document an advance care plan. 

Either way, it is important to note it is not a path to voluntary assisted dying (VAD).

VAD plans are a completely separate process, allowing people to legally choose the manner and timing of their death.

Why make a plan? 

Everyone is better off with plan, says the ACPA.

An advance care plan helps to ensure you receive the treatment you want. It improves end-of-life and ongoing care and reduces unnecessary transfers to acute care and unwanted treatment.

ACPA says families of people who have undergone advance care planning have less anxiety, depression and stress and are more satisfied with care.

ACPA recommends making your plan a team effort involving your family, friends, doctors, care workers and other health professionals. But if you want to get started now, visit the site here or call 1300 208 582 for a starter pack. 

Do you have an advance care plan or directive? Why or why not? We’d love to hear your experience in the comments section below.

Also read: Adding a few extra steps to your walk could save your heart

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisherhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/JanFisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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