End-of-life planning by you yourself is vital to your dignity in old age

Article published 13 April 2022

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AN advance care directive is a legal document outlining a person’s preferences and instructions for their future health care. The document comes into effect when a person is not capable of making their own treatment decisions, providing a sense of certainty, choice and control in the face of declining health.

Advance care directives are only legal when completed and signed by people with decision-making capacity.

Only 14 per cent of Australians-over-65 have done an advance care directive.

Around 30 per cent will be too unwell to make their own treatment decisions at the end of their lives.

An advance care directive simply is currently not part of routine care planning for older people. It should be.

Advance care directives can mitigate many stresses older people, their families and carers face at critical moments in their lives.

Advance care directives should never be compulsory, but the aged care system should recognise that ensuring people have choice and control over health care decisions, now and into the future, is an important component of quality aged care.

The Aged Care Act is currently being rewritten following the Aged Care Royal Commission. As part of reforms, advance care directives should be promoted as one of the tools that ensure the rights and choices of older people are front of mind.

Currently, 30 per cent of nursing home residents had an advance care plan completed by someone else such as a family member or carer, rather than making these choices themselves. Nursing home require an advance care plan to be in place upon entry, and this is for a good reason. But it would be so much better if nursing home entrants had been able to plan for their end-of-life themselves.

It’s essential that people have the opportunity to plan earlier, while they still have capacity to make their own decisions and clearly express their own preferences and choices.

Click here for a link to advance care planning information for the state or territory in which you live.


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