While most people are aware of how important it is to have a Will when they pass away, what’s less well known, but possibly more important, is having an advance care plan.
An advance care plan can help ensure that you receive the treatment you want according to your choices in the context of your life.
The Director of the Statewide Office of Advance Care Planning, Professor Liz Reymond said they recently celebrated the milestone of receiving 100,000 Advance Care Plan (ACP) documents from Queensland residents, since 1 July 2016.
“Preparing an ACP isn’t always about death – it’s also about your life and how you want to live it,” Prof Reymond said.
“Such plans can be used to ensure your wishes, values, beliefs and future healthcare preferences are known, in case you become incapable of consenting or refusing healthcare for yourself.
“There is no doubt conversations about dying and death can be confronting and emotional, but they’re very valuable to have ahead of time.
“As hard as the conversation can be, it will save your loved ones from having to make difficult decisions on your behalf without knowing what you would have wanted.
“Your doctor can provide information and outline possible options for you, the implications of your choices and clarify what might happen if you want to receive or refuse certain kinds of medical treatment. This is particularly important for people who are already suffering from a terminal illness.
Professor Reymond said having a discussion with your carers, family and trusted friends about your future medical treatment and care, and documenting it, is vital.
“It is most useful to have these discussions in a timely and considered fashion, rather than at the time of a health crisis, where emotions can run high.
“Once you have made your decisions, it is important to document them so that your nominated decision-maker and healthcare team are fully aware of your wishes if you lose capacity and can no longer communicate clearly.
“These documents should then be shared with your family and anyone else who may be involved in your care, as well as providing copies to the Queensland Statewide Office of Advance Care Planning.”
Professor Liz Reymond said the prevalence of ACP documentation in Australians aged over 65 years was low, at just 29 per cent.
“We’d like to see that number rise, for your sake and the sake of your loved ones,” she said.
“Providing copies of your completed ACP documents to the Statewide Office of ACP for review and upload to the Queensland Health electronic hospital record ensures doctors, Queensland Ambulance Service paramedics and appropriate medical staff have immediate access to your ACP documents at the time and place needed.
“It is important to remember you can review your plan at any time. Your decisions are not set in stone and may need to be updated for any number of reasons including a change in your medical circumstances, a change in your living arrangements, or simply a shift in your beliefs or values.”