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Advanced Care Directives


An advanced care directive is a legal document that outlines your preferences for your healthcare. Sometimes referred to as an advanced health directive or living will, it helps you to plan for your current and future healthcare needs. The plan is based on what is important to you such as your personal values, beliefs, and preferences.

Once created family members and health professionals will know what to do if you become unwell or unable to communicate your wishes and can make healthcare decisions according to your plan.

The difference between Advanced Care Plans and Directives

It is important to note that an advanced care plan and an advanced care directive are not the same.  

An advanced care plan is the process of planning, and considering values, beliefs, and preferences to guide decision-making about your care when are no longer able to communicate your wishes.  

On the other hand, an advanced care directive specifically refers to the formalised document that outlines your specific healthcare wishes. It is a legal document that provides clear instructions about the medical treatments you would or would not like to receive in certain situations. 

Who are Advanced Care Directives for?

Anyone who is over the age of 18 years old and is seen as having decision-making capacity can make an advanced care directive.

If you are experiencing a serious illness, a health condition, or are elderly, having an advanced care directive in place is a good way to ensure your personal preferences are met.

What is meant by decision-making capacity?

To have decision-making capacity, means that you are able to understand and make choices about your own healthcare, finances, and legal matters. You are able to clearly think about and decide what’s best for you. For example, you can understand the information given to you about your health and the different treatment options available. You can also consider the advantages and disadvantages of receiving certain types of treatment and then tell others what you prefer. 

Each situation can be different and you may find that you are able to manage some areas of your life well, and not others. If you find yourself no longer able to make decisions for yourself, for example, you are having trouble understanding things or expressing your choices, then a substitute decision-maker might be chosen to assist you in making decisions on your behalf.  

Getting Started

Creating an advanced care plan and directive ensures your wishes are known to others and respected.  

Here are a few tips to get started. 

  • Do the research. Take time to learn about advanced care directives and their purpose.
  • Start thinking about what is important to you. What are your values, beliefs, and preferences? 
  • Are there any types of treatment you would not be happy to receive? 
  • Talk to loved ones. Have open discussions about healthcare preferences.  
  • Think about whom you would trust to assist with decision-making if you are no longer able to make choices for yourself? 

If you would like to create an advanced care plan, you can find information specific to your state or territory on the Advanced Care Planning Australia website. Resources and guidance on the process of creating a plan and tips to start a conversation can also be found here.   

After creating and formalising a valid care directive, healthcare professionals and family members are bound to adhere to the plan. However, it’s essential to note that specific rules may differ from state to state. Please make sure to check the relevant information for your state or territory. 

Advance care planning can involve several key people. This usually includes: 

  • You – As the person at the centre of the plan, it is important to express your healthcare preferences, values and beliefs.  
  • Loved ones and family can play a supportive role and it is important that they understand your wishes. You may also choose to make a family member your substitute decision-maker.  
  • Healthcare professionals- talking to your doctor about your plan is important. 
  • National Advanced Care Planning Support Service– if you are looking for more information about creating a plan, contact the National Advanced Care Planning Support Service  
  • Decision maker – this is the person chosen to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. 

A copy of an advanced care directive can be provided to your family, treating doctor, or the person who will be the decision-maker should you become unwell and no longer able to communicate your choices.   

A copy can also be uploaded to your My Health Record.  

An Advanced Care Directive can be changed at any time if you are considered to have decision making capacity.  

Reviewing an advanced care directive is important and ensures that your current circumstances and preferences are reflected within the document. Reviewing and making changes, however, may differ depending on where you live. The directive may need to be legally cancelled and a new document created. 

For more information visit the relevant  

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