Healthy living

Advance care planning

Advance care planning (ACP) is an ongoing discussion between you, your loved ones and your health care professionals. It involves learning about the different choices available and choosing the type of medical care that is best for you. This process could include the following: Gathering your thoughts, talking to someone close to you, talking to your doctor and letting your thoughts known in writing.

Watch the State Government Victoria video about advance care planning (external site).

Gather your thoughts

Explore your options for care and consider all circumstances. For instance, it may not be possible for you to be cared for at home if your condition deteriorates. You therefore may wish to explore the alternatives available to you with your treating health professionals, Enduring Guardian, or family. Some of your wishes will be about your medical care and other personal matters.

Talk to someone close to you

A chronic or terminal illness can take away our capacity to make decisions about how we would like to be treated, so it’s important to let those close to you know your wishes beforehand. It’s a conversation not many feel comfortable about, but for most of us life comes to an end not of our choosing. While avoidance will provide short-term comfort, in the end it will increase anxiety in you and those close to you. While you are still capable is the time to make these decisions and let others know about them.

Watch the Advance Care Planning Australia video about making the decision to have an advance care plan (external site).

Talk to your doctor

Talk to your doctor and health care professionals and let them know about your worries, concerns and wishes around your treatment and care.

Watch the Advance Care Planning Australia video of Associate Professor Charlie Corke (Intensive Care Specialist) talking about advance care planning (external site).

Let your thoughts be known in writing

Once you are clear about your wishes for future treatment, care and personal matters, it is recommended you put these in writing. The Advance Care Planning process may identify that several different documents should be completed so that your wishes are properly recorded and may (or must) be followed when the time comes.

Consider which of the following may be required in your case.

Advance Health Directive

An Advance Heath Directive (AHD) is a form recognised at law (under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1990) that contains a person’s decisions to provide or withhold consent to specific health care treatments or procedures, including life-sustaining measures and palliative care.

If you wish to make legally binding treatment decisions, then it is recommended that you make an AHD.

To make an AHD, you may obtain a form by:

  1. Downloading and printing the Advance Health Directive form (PDF 344KB)
  2. Email: acp@health.wa.gov.au

Alternatively, you can speak to someone from WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network (WACPCN) of the Department of Health on 9222 2300 to get a copy of the form or for further information.

Enduring Power of Guardianship

Another option you may wish to consider is the Enduring Power of Guardianship (EPG). An EPG refers to both a power of guardianship and the form which officially records that power, as recognised at law (under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1990). An EPG authorises a person of your choice to make important personal, lifestyle and treatment decisions on your behalf should you ever become incapable of making such decisions yourself. This person is known as an Enduring Guardian.

An Enduring Guardian cannot make decisions about matters you have already addressed in an AHD. For further information about appointing an Enduring Guardian visit the Office of the Public Advocate website (external site) or call 1300 858 455.

Advance Care Plan

An Advance Care Plan is a record of your advance care planning discussion and a way of informing those who are caring for you of your personal wishes. An Advance Care Plan may include detail of personal wishes which are not covered in other formal documents mentioned above. Any special requests or messages may be recorded here as a useful guide for those persons involved in your care and managing various matters for you. Fill in an Advance Care Plan (PDF 152KB).

You can also download the form as part of the publication Advance Care Planning: A Patient’s Guide (PDF 798KB).

Living will

The term ‘living will’ is an expression sometimes used to describe a record in which a person communicates their views regarding their anticipated future healthcare decisions, such as whether the person consents or withholds consent in relation to specified treatment decisions which they anticipate will arise in the future. Living wills are intended to come into effect when their maker can no longer make and communicate decisions about their healthcare.

Living wills may include:

  • AHDs which are formally recognised at law and binding upon persons responsible for care
  • ‘Common law directives’ (CLD), that is written or verbal communications which convey a person’s wishes regarding health treatment to be provided or withheld in specified future circumstances. There are no formal requirements in relation to common law directives. However, there can be considerable difficulties in establishing that a particular CLD is valid at law and can be followed. For this reason they are not recommended.

If there are specific treatment wishes that you wish to be followed once you’ve lost the ability to make decisions, it is recommended that you complete an AHD.

Resources

Where to get help


Acknowledgements
Cancer and Palliative Care Network

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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