I Am Living

While acknowledging that these may be difficult conversations, planning ahead for end-of-life care will make things significantly easier for your and those important to you once this planning becomes needed.

Some important aspects to plan for follow:

Make an advance directive

Advance care planning is the process through which you make your medical treatment and care preferences known to the important people in your life and your health care team, in the event that you cannot make these decisions yourself.

The Advance Care Directive is a written document that informs the people you love and those who care for you, in advance, about the level of health care and quality of life you would want if, because of your illness or medical condition, you are unable to participate in the conversations and decision-making process for yourself. The Directive may contain general statements about your values and preferences to guide your health care team as well as specific instructions should you wish to refuse or consent to a specific treatment.

In addition to creating a written Advance Care Directive, it is also important to discuss your end-of-life care wishes and preferences with those important to you and your health care team to make sure they are aware of what matters to you. This will give you greater confidence that your preferences will be respected and will support people you love when making decisions on your behalf, should you become too unwell to do so yourself.

Appoint a person to make decisions for you

You may appoint a person to be your medical treatment decision-maker, should you become too unwell to do so yourself.

Plan your finances

Make sure that that your will and financial accounts are up-to-date. This will greatly assist those managing your estate after your death.

If you elect to appoint a financial enduring power of attorney, you can work with them to ensure that your wishes are known and documented.

Sometimes, it is possible to access insurance or superannuation funds during illness, particularly at end-of-life. You will need to contact your superannuation and/or insurance providers in order to understand the circumstances in which you may be granted access to these funds.

You may also wish to consider receiving professional financial advice for further clarification on financial matters.

Plan for personal matters

There may be other personal matters, which are important to you, that you may wish to put into place. You may wish to visit a special place, bequest valued items or make particular requests for your funeral or final resting place.

You may need to talk about these wishes with those important to you. Together, you will be able to make them happen.

Make it legal

There are a number of types of legal appointments that grant decision-making powers to the person you appoint, such as:

  • enduring power of attorney: can manage your finances
  • enduring power of guardianship: can make personal and lifestyle decisions on your behalf; and
  • medical treatment decision maker: can manage your medical needs.

Once appointed, each of these people can make specific decisions on your behalf, so appointees ought to be people you trust fully.

For further information, contact the Office of the Public Advocate in your State or Territory.

Understand your condition

It is very important to plan for end-of-life when you are healthy. Having said this, should you be diagnosed with a life-limiting or terminal illness, you may need to revise your plans in light of the meaning of the illness for you. This possibility should not deter you from making a plan timely.

Your health care team will work with you to assist you understanding how your condition will progress. It is very important that you ask questions and consider the information you receive carefully. If in doubt, ask additional questions. Once you understand your condition and what you can expect, you can revise your plans accordingly. Some of the aspects you will need to consider follow.

Ethical considerations

When someone is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, they may wish to discuss potential ethical issues with those important to them and their health care team before issues arise. Some key considerations are:

  • artificial nutrition and hydration;
  • dying assistance requests;
  • palliative sedation;
  • withdrawal of medically-futile treatment; and
  • autopsy requests.