Advance Care Planning

What is advance care planning?

Life is unpredictable. If you have a long-term health condition, there can be ups and downs. You may just be focused on getting through life, one day at a time. But, thinking about what may happen in future is important, too.

If you ever become unable to make decisions, or communicate, we have a process called advance care planning.

Advanced care planning is informing someone you trust and your medical team about your future healthcare. It enables the people you trust and your healthcare team to respect your wishes.

At St Vincent’s Hospital, we want to help you understand the advance care planning process – so you can feel comfortable you will always be in control of your healthcare.

Why is advance care planning important?

Advanced care planning helps the people you trust and your healthcare team understand your values, beliefs and wishes for your future. Without direction, the people caring for you may be worried they aren’t making the best choices.'

Advance care planning allows others to make the decisions you would want – without stress or uncertainty. The planning process also helps you to feel reassured about the future.

Remember, your healthcare team will always turn to you first for decisions. However, if a time comes when you are unable to communicate your wishes, an advance care plan will ensure your voice is still heard.

When should I make an advance care plan?

You can make an advance care plan at any time you feel comfortable. We recommend you start the process when you are feeling well, before the urgent need for a plan.

An advance care plan is also useful if you:

  • are older
  • are frail
  • have a long-term illness
  • have more than one health condition
  • have difficulty remembering, concentrating or making everyday decisions
  • are approaching the end of your life.

What does advance care planning involve?

Advance care planning involves you choosing someone now to help your healthcare team make decisions in future on your behalf about your healthcare. These decisions will reflect your values and wishes.

The person you choose may be a partner, spouse, child, close relative, friend or carer. The person should be someone who:

  • you trust
  • is aged over 18 years
  • will talk with you now about your wishes for the future
  • is comfortable making decisions in difficult circumstances.

Some people prefer to leave specific written instructions in a document called an Advance Care Directive. This is perfectly okay, but not necessary. Your circumstances may change, and a document prepared in the past may not meet your needs at the present time.

So, we recommend you appoint someone to speak on your behalf. When you have chosen someone, ask them to speak on your behalf and tell them about what matters to you. It’s important to make the advance care planning process easy and straightforward for your chosen person.

How do I communicate my wishes to others?

At St Vincent’s Hospital, we understand that it’s not easy to have a conversation about your future healthcare. Often, the hardest part is getting started.

It’s normal to feel uncomfortable and emotional when you have these conversations, and you may need time.

You may find the Catholic Health Australia Advance Care Plan a useful tool to help guide you through the conversation with the person you have chosen to speak on your behalf. This document suggests writing down your wishes for your chosen person.

Let your healthcare team know who your chosen person is, in case they need to be contacted suddenly. It’s a good idea to provide copies of your Advance Care Plan with your chosen person, family members and your healthcare team.

Where can I find more help?

For more information visit Advance Care Planning Australia.