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What is advance care planning?

Advance care planning involves thinking and making choices now to guide your future health care. It is a process of communicating your wishes, values, beliefs and treatment preferences with your family, friends and healthcare providers. 

If you have strong beliefs about what you want to happen in the future, it is particularly important to make your plans and wishes known now. You can do this by having a conversation with those close to you and writing down your preferences.

Planning ahead can mean:

  • discussing your health care and quality of life choices with those closest to you, and
  • choosing and appointing your Enduring Power of Attorney(s), and/or
  • completing an Advance Health Directive, and/or
  • writing down your values, beliefs and health care preferences in a Statement of Choices.

Why should you plan ahead?

Planning in advance helps those close to you make health care decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. It provides comfort for you and your loved ones knowing you have done your best to ensure your wishes can be respected. Advance care planning is a completely voluntary process. 

Planning ahead can help to ensure:

  • the treatment and care you receive in the future is in line with your wishes
  • your loved ones won’t have to make difficult decisions on your behalf without knowing what you would have wanted
  • your words guide those making decisions about your health care when you can’t speak for yourself

Even if you are fit and healthy, it is never too early to plan your future health care.

What if someone close to me cannot make decisions for themselves?

When a person has not completed an advance care plan, and cannot make decisions or speak for themselves now, someone will be asked to make decisions and give consent for medical treatment on their behalf.

You may already be the carer, or appointed as a guardian or attorney for someone close to you who cannot make independent health care decisions. You can write down what you believe the person would have chosen for themselves. As their substitute decision maker, you can write down these choices in a Statement of Choices Form B. When a person can no longer make health care decisions for themselves they are not able to complete an Advance Health Directive or Enduring Power of Attorney form.

Advance care planning documents

Last updated 23 August 2019
Last reviewed 22 May 2017

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