What would you want to happen if you couldn't speak for yourself?
Whatever our age, we all have values and preferences related to our health and personal care, and it is essential that our individual needs guide the care that we receive. This is particularly important at a stage when we may not be able to make or communicate our decisions to others.
The conversations around advance care planning do not need to be painful or uncomfortable, and planning about your future requirements should be discussed when you are healthy – before there is need for a plan.
It is essential to be open about what matters most to you, be ready to engage with your family, friends, loved ones and health care professionals and make sure your preferences are known.
You shouldn’t be afraid to raise the subject, planning for future medical treatment is like making a Will for your health care.
To effectively communicate your values and preferences to others, you must first know and understand these yourself.
Take some time to consider your past health experiences, diagnosed medical conditions and how they may relate to the future medical treatment you may - or may not - want.
This may start with an open conversation with your doctor about your current health situation and what may happen in the future.
Consider who you wish to select as your substitute decision maker. In Victoria, they are known as a Medical Treatment Decision Maker.
This should be somebody:
- you trust
- is over 18 years of age
- who will listen carefully to your values and preferences for future care
- who will be comfortable making decisions in stressful situations
Starting the conversation around advance care planning with those close to you can be daunting. Be patient and take your time, you and your loved ones may need a few moments to think things through during the conversation.
It is important that once your decisions have been made, they are written down in an Advance Care Directive, which can be changed by you at any time in the future.
Your Advance Care Directive contains information about your values, preferences and your nominated substitute decision maker. Once written it should be signed, dated and shared with a number of people including:
- Your family
- Your substitute decision maker
- Your hospital or doctor
- Anyone else you feel is appropriate
Advance Care Planning Australia have an advisory service available on 1300 208 582 to help with a range of information, including:
- How to start the conversation
- Advice on how to choose a substitute decision-maker
- How to make sure your goals, values and preferences are heard
- Accessing relevant forms in each state and territory
- Completing an Advance Care Directive
You can also find some great resources on their website at www.advancecareplanning.org.au