Help someone start an Advance Care Directive

Supporting advance care planning

Advance care planning allows health professionals to understand and respect a person’s health care preferences, if the person ever becomes seriously ill and unable to communicate for themselves.

Workers in palliative or aged care and healthcare professionals are in an important position to help with planning. You might want to start the conversation with someone, or they might ask you about the requirements of advance care planning.

When should advance care planning be introduced?

Advance care planning conversations should be routine and occur as part of a person’s ongoing healthcare plan. Better outcomes are experienced when advance care planning is introduced early as part of ongoing care rather than in reaction to a decline in condition or a crisis situation. 

Advance care planning allows health professionals to understand and respect a person’s health care preferences, if the person ever becomes seriously ill and unable to communicate for themselves.

When the advance care planning conversation is initiated, the person should be medically stable, comfortable and ideally accompanied by their substitute decision-maker(s) or a family, friend and/or carer.

Triggers for advance care planning conversations can include:

  • when a person or family member asks about current or future treatment goals
  • at a 75+ health assessment when an older person receives their annual flu vaccination
  • when there is a diagnosis of a metastatic malignancy or end organ failure indicating a poor prognosis
  • when there is a diagnosis of early dementia or a disease which could result in loss of capacity
  • if you would not be surprised if the person died within twelve months
  • if there are changes in care arrangements (e.g. admission to a residential aged care facility).

Selecting a substitute decision-maker

Explain that they will need to select a substitute decision-maker( s). This should be someone who is not a paid carer or healthcare provider. Ideally, they will need to be:

  • available (live in the same city or region)
  • over the age of 18
  • prepared to advocate and make decisions clearly and confidently on a person’s behalf when talking to doctors, other health professionals and family members if needed.

  • Undertake training in advance care planning to increase knowledge and improve skills.
  • Find out more about advance care planning and the requirements relevant to your state/territory.
  • Talk about the person’s beliefs, values and life goals regarding healthcare options.
  • Discuss with other relevant healthcare professionals, family, friends and/or carers.
  • Encourage people to write an Advance Care Directive or use a form relevant to their state/territory law.
  • Encourage them to keep the Advance Care Directive safe, and store it appropriately (see below).
  • Encourage them to review their Advance Care Directive every year or if there is a change in their health or personal situation.

Where should Advance Care Directives be kept?

Advance Care Directives may be stored with:

  • the person
  • the substitute decision-maker(s)
  • the GP/local doctor
  • the specialist(s)
  • the residential aged care home
  • the hospital
  • You can also encourage and help people to store their Advance Care Directive in ‘My Health Record’ at
Booklets and guides

Companion guides to start advance care planning

Mother and daughter smiling with a hug


A personal guide

This guide is designed to help individuals to think about their future healthcare choices, to be used alongside the companion booklet, 'Getting started'.

Download PDF (2.7MB)
Grandfather holding granddaughter on lap


Getting started

This booklet is designed to support individuals in developing an Advance Care Directive, alongside the companion publication, 'A personal guide'.

Download PDF (4.3MB)