I Am Living

Advance care planning is a routine part of a person’s healthcare.

Advance care planning refers to planning for future medical treatment and healthcare needs through the identification of goals of care. Many people do not like talking about end-of-life issues. Advance care planning is an ongoing process of reflection, discussion and communication that allows a person to make decisions about their future medical treatment and other care options, while they are still competent and able to communicate these wishes.

Advance care planning should commence early in the person’s illness, preferably at diagnosis, and should be a part of routine clinical care. Early discussion is important so that the person’s wishes are respected at a time when they can no longer voice these decisions. This can lead to a better end-of-life experience for everyone involved. 

A person must have the capacity to make decisions in order to make an advance care plan or to choose a substitute decision-maker.

Basic Advance Care Plan considerations

  • Know the decisions you face as a person living with a life-limiting condition
  • Understand the possible options available to you as well as their outcomes
  • Weigh up the pertinent information
  • Make and communicate your decision.

What does an effective advance care plan do?

  • Outlines how to manage pain and other symptoms
  • Describes how to provide psychological, spiritual, social and cultural support
  • Details which treatments will be included in the overall care plan and which ones will not
  • Helps family members make decisions about care options, if and when necessary
  • Helps everyone involved including healthcare workers, family and carers, who due to the Advance Care Plan know what to expect at different stages of the illness
  • Describes how to support families and carers through the bereavement process
  • If the person retains capacity, they may participate in decision-making directly.

Loss of capacity is the trigger to act on an advance care plan.