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Advance care planning

What is advance care planning?

Advance care planning helps you plan for future medical care. It is an important part of planning, particularly for people who are older, have a chronic health condition, early cognitive impairment, or a life limiting illness. You may be caring for someone in one of these situations, and/or you may be in one of these situations yourself.

Having an advance care directive ensures a person’s health care preferences are known and respected when or if the time comes.

Discussions should be held when the person is healthy. It is best to make decisions before there is an urgent need or an emergency. It is a good idea to discuss one’s wishes with a doctor as well as close friends and relatives. Knowing the person’s wishes will help them if they need to make decisions on that person’s behalf in the future.

What does advance care planning involve?

There are two parts to advance care planning:

1. Appointing an Enduring Guardian

An Enduring Guardian is appointed by a person to manage their future health care if they are no longer able to make decisions.

2. Completing an Advance Care Directive

An Advance Care Directive records a person’s specific preferences for future health care. This includes treatments they would accept or refuse if they had a life-threatening illness or injury. An Advance Care Directive will only be used if the person does not have capacity to make decisions or to communicate their preferences.

There is no official format in which an Advanced Care Directive needs to be written. A typed or hand written letter is also acceptable.

Where to store your Advance Care Directive

There is no official place to register an Advance Care Directive in NSW. However, it is important that carers and other family members have quick access to it if required. Advance Care Directives can be stored in paper or electronic format by:

  • Uploading it onto a My Health Record
  • Including it in a will
  • Giving a copy to a GP or treatment team
  • Keeping it in a place that can be accessed by carers and family members

How to start the conversation

Starting the conversation about advance care planning is an important first step in ensuring a person's preferences for future care are known and respected. Advance Care Planning Australia has shared some conversation starters to assist with conversations between family, friends and the GP about an advance care plan.

Where to get more information

  • Advance Care Planning Australia provides a range of resources and information for individuals, family, friends, carers and for health care professionals about advance care planning. On their website you will find specific resources for people living in NSW.
  • CareSearch provides easy to understand information on planning for the future when living with a serious illness. Connecting patients, carers and their families with trustworthy resources, their website includes information on Advance Care Planning, Wills and funerals.