Advance health care planning

Advance health care planning allows you to express your wishes about your future health care.

Advance health care planning involves thinking about and discussing your future care and treatment options with health care professionals, family and other important people in your life, so that you can make choices. In this way, you can make sure that everyone involved in your care knows what you prefer. The process allows you to explain your wishes in advance, in case you are not able to do this later because you are too unwell. It is a good idea to allow time for lots of discussion as you may have many questions.

Whenever things change for you, you need to think about how this might affect your health care plans. If you want to alter these plans, it is important that the health care team and the important people in your life know what changes you make.

Talking to a doctor about the care and treatment choices you may have is a good way to start to organise an advance health care plan. Before your doctor’s visit, it is helpful to write down what you would like to discuss. For example, you may wish to talk about your illness, how symptoms can be managed, and how certain decisions can be made for you by others (eg by arranging an enduring power of attorney). Your family or friends may also have questions.

Advance health care directives

An advance health care directive describes in writing how you would like to be treated and cared for. It is a way of communicating your advance health care plan.

You can write down your advance health care plan in an advance health care directive or have this done for you. Sometimes, an advance health care directive is called a ‘statement of choices’, a ‘statement of wishes’ or a ‘living will’.

Health care professionals will use your advance health care directive to guide care or treatment if and when you are unable to make or tell people about your own decisions. A key part of an advance health care directive is also naming a family member or friend who can ‘speak for you’, if and when you are unable to speak for yourself. This is in case the advance health care directive does not cover a particular choice that needs to be made.

Further information about advance health care planning and directives, specific information for people from other cultures and backgrounds, and information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is included in the Community Care Guidelines (see page 7).

Information on advance health care planning and advance health care directives is available through:

Respecting Patient Choices
For more information Please visit Respecting Patient Choices website

National Dementia Helpline
For more information Please visit Alzheimers website
Telephone: 1800 100 500