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National Advance Care Planning Week is 18 -24 March 2024

Advance care planning involves planning for your future health care. It enables you to make some decisions now about the health care you would or would not like to receive if you were to become seriously ill and unable to communicate your preferences or make treatment decisions.

Advance care planning gives you the opportunity to think about, discuss and record your preferences for the type of care you would like to receive and the outcomes you would consider acceptable.

Advance care planning helps to ensure your loved ones and health providers know what matters most to you and respect your treatment preferences. Ideally, advance care planning will result in your preferences being documented in a plan known as an advance care directive and the appointment of a substitute decision-maker to help ensure your preferences are respected.

Why it's important

Advance care planning benefits everyone: you, your family, carers and health professionals.

  • It helps to ensure you receive the care you actually want
  • It improves ongoing and end-of-life care, along with personal and family satisfaction
  • Families of people who have undertaken advance care planning have less anxiety, depression, stress and are more satisfied with care
  • For healthcare professionals and organisations, it reduces unnecessary transfers to acute care and unwanted treatment

If you haven't documented your preferences or identified a substitute decision-maker, and you become seriously ill or injured, doctors will make treatment decisions based on their assessment of your best interests. This may include treatments that you would not want.

Planning is for everyone

Everyone should consider advance care planning, regardless of your age or health. Ideally, you should start planning when you're healthy - before there's actually an urgent need for a plan.

It is particularly important if you:

  • are older
  • have a chronic illness
  • have multiple diseases
  • have an early cognitive impairment
  • are approaching the end of your life

It's a team effort

Advance care planning requires a team effort. It involves having conversations with your family, friends, doctors, care workers and other health professionals. Having these conversations will help you start thinking about what's important to you. Learn more about starting the conversation.

The process

Advance care planning doesn't need to be complicated but it does require careful consideration. It involves thinking about your values and preferences for care and acceptable outcomes, talking about them with others, appointing someone to make decisions on your behalf and documenting everything. Learn more about the advance care planning process.

Advance care planning is very important in palliative and end-of-life care, the PHN has developed the below community explainer video “What is Palliative Care?” and has further information, links and resources for health professionals and community members on our palliative care landing page.

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