Advance care planning can help the people close to you and those caring for you to know what is important to you about the level of healthcare and quality of life you would want if, for some reason, you are unable to participate in the discussions.
Discussing and writing down your wishes for future care will help the person you choose as your substitute decision maker to feel more comfortable about the decisions they make on your behalf.
A guide to advance care planning
It is recommended that you take several steps to make sure your wishes are known if you become sick and unable to make your own decisions. These include:
- Think about your wishes for future care.
- Have the conversation.
- Consider appointing someone to make decisions for you.
- Write your wishes down.
- Give your advance care plan to others.
- Review it regularly or when anything changes.
Think about your wishes for future care
There are certain things for you to consider regarding your medical treatment and the care you would want. Think about what might happen if you couldn’t make decisions regarding your care for some reason. Do you have views or preferences about your care that you would want known?
Out of the people in your life who are close to you and know you well, consider who you would trust to be able to make decisions for you about the type of healthcare you receive, and your quality of life. Think about what you would like them to consider when they are making decisions on your behalf.
Talk about your advance care plan
To make sure the things that are important to you are known if you get sick and decisions need to be made for you:
- Talk to those close to you.
- Talk to your family.
- Talk to your doctor and treating team.
Some useful questions to consider and discuss are:
- What do you know about your condition/s?
- What are your goals in life? What is important to you?
- What are your fears about what is to come?
- What would you like to do as time runs short?
- How important is it to you to have more time?
- Think about:
- managing pain and suffering
How important are these considerations to you, and which is the most important? If it is not possible to achieve all of these, what trade-offs are you willing to make?
Consider appointing someone to make decisions for you
A substitute decision maker, also known as a medical enduring power of attorney, can make medical decisions when you are unable to participate in the decision making.
Consider choosing someone who:
- is close to you
- has a clear understanding of your wishes, and whom you trust to follow those wishes and act in your best interests
- can be a strong advocate for you
- is 18 years of age or over
- is willing to take on the role
- is not your paid carer
- is not a healthcare practitioner who is responsible for your health care.
You will need to sign the form appointing your substitute decision maker in front of two witnesses. One of these witnesses must be authorised to witness a statutory declaration. Your substitute decision maker cannot be one of the witnesses.
Write your wishes in an advance care plan
At present, there is no one standardised form in Victoria for a general advance care plan. It can be a form you complete or a letter you write. One option is to use this advance care planning form.
Your doctor and treating team may also be able to provide some advice about how to write down your wishes.
If you are writing a letter to your substitute decision-maker, family and others involved in providing your care, it is recommended that you:
- discuss it with your doctor
- ask your doctor to write a supporting letter, if possible
- sign and date the letter
- have two people witness the document; one of these witnesses must be authorised to witness a statutory declaration.
In some instances, you may wish to complete a Refusal of Treatment Certificate if you wish to refuse treatment related to a specific illness you may have. Your doctor needs to complete this form with you, and must witness the document, along with one other person.
Give your advance care plan to others
Keep the original copy of your advance care plan and medical enduring power of attorney appointment in a safe place. Then, to make sure they are found and actioned, give a copy to:
- your substitute decision maker
- your family
- your doctor
- the hospital you most regularly use – ask for an alert to be put in your medical record.
Sign up to the Australian Government's personally controlled eHealth record where you can upload your advance care plan.
Reviewing your advance care plan
You can review and change your advance care plan at any time. You may be prompted to review your plan when your circumstances change. For example, if:
- you have been hospitalised for a severe or ongoing illness
- there has been a change to your condition or your health has become unstable
- you decide you want to refuse life-sustaining treatment
- you or your family are enquiring about palliative care.
If you decide to make any changes to your advance care plan, you should discuss this with your substitute decision maker, your family, and your doctor or other relevant healthcare professionals. Give an updated copy of the plan to all those who were given the first copy so they are aware of the changes.
Where to get help
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Advance care planning, Department of Health & Human Services
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.