TRY not to turn away from reading about the importance of advance care planning and how you go about putting it in place.
It really is about protecting your needs and wants when you become too sick to make and communicate the decisions yourself. When you have clear, written instructions in place, medical staff can refer to them and ensure what you want is carried out.
Having an advance care plan will also give your family and friends specific information to help you, rather than expecting them to know and understand what treatment and services you want if you become seriously ill, unconscious or if you develop dementia.
Whenever I update my will, I also review my advance care plan documents with my legal representative. Even though I don't have any health concerns, I want to ensure that if I find myself incapacitated, my wishes are known and observed in a critical time of care.
The good thing is once you have worked through the following steps for getting your advance care plan in place today, you can get on with enjoying your life to the full.
Think and talk
- Jot down what you prefer to have happen if others need to make medical decisions for you. Consider everything from when you would allow others to make those decisions including at the time of resuscitation if your heart stopped or you stop breathing, to what you don't want to have happen.
- Talk to family, close friends or your carers about what you have jotted down. Ask what they think and if there is anything else you should think of during this planning phase.
- Consider who is best equipped to make health decisions for you. Try to find one or two people who can cope when dealing with confronting issues.
- Don't forget to ask their permission to be listed as your 'substitute decision-maker'.
Write it down
The Advance Care Directive needs to be a written list of your advance care preferences and requirements.
It can be prepared with the help of a solicitor or you can download a state-approved form from online. Included in the document should be -
- The names and current contact details of who you want to speak on your behalf with your doctors.
- A description of the care that would and would not be acceptable to you and a description of any treatments or services that you do or do not want.
- Include any other wishes such as wanting to die at home or in a hospital, having your family with you or having your pet with you.
- Sign the document and get a witness signature, then date the document.
- Attached a list of your medical contacts.
Attached to the Advance Care Directive should be your Enduring Power of Attorney details, if you have appointed one.
Once the document is completed, it is very important that you give a copy of it to those people listed in the document and anyone else involved in your ongoing care, and anyone likely to be contacted at a critical time.
You can also upload a copy of the documents to your account in the My Health Record website which will then make them accessible to your treating doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers.
It's also wise to update these documents from time to time as changes in your health, medical and personal relationships changes.
For more information on advance care planning, go to www.advancecareplanning.org.au.
The inaugural national Advance Care Planning week is on this week, April 16 to 22.