How do I start the conversation?

Talking routinely

Advance care planning conversations should be seen as a normal part of life and of a person’s ongoing healthcare plan.

If you're a care worker

As the person's care worker, you play an important role in supporting the person with daily activities and listening to their concerns. During your time together you can have conversations about their values and preferences, encouraging the person to speak with their family, friends, carer and/or doctor.

There are many opportunities to start talking about advance care planning with someone. Here are a few examples:

  • when a person or family member asks about current or future treatment options and goals
  • at an age- or condition-related 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 (for instance, admission to a residential aged care facility)

There are many ways to start the conversation. Here are a few suggestions:

  • 'What is it about life that you really value the most?'
  • 'What are your goals and fears for the future?'
  • 'Can you tell me about what things are most important to you? I'd like to know so that if you can't speak for yourself because of an illness or injury, I could use your values as a guide to help your doctors make the right treatment decisions for you.'
  • 'Is there someone you trust to make decisions for you in case you couldn't?'
  • 'Have you ever heard of advance care planning? It's when you think about what's important to you and talk about your values and your preferences for future healthcare.'
If you're a health professional

Ideally, advance care conversations should begin when a person is medically stable, comfortable and accompanied by their substitute decision-maker(s), family, friends and/or carer.

Beginning points for advance care planning conversations can include:

  • when a person or family member asks about current or future treatment options and goals
  • at an age- or condition-related 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 (for instance, admission to a residential aged care facility)

Encourage people to think about their beliefs, values and preferences regarding their current and future healthcare. Discuss their attitudes and life goals regarding healthcare treatment options.

Nurse discussing advance care plan

Advance care planning for health and care workers

Help someone start a plan

Ensure people receive care that is consistent with their beliefs, values, attitudes and preferences.

Get started
  • Education & Training

    ACP Learning

    Advance Care Planning Australia

    ACP Learning is a national eLearning hub to support aged care workers, health professionals and consumers learn more about advance care planning. There are a range of modules addressing advance care planning introductions, conversations, planning legal implications and more. The ACP Learning project is led by Advance Care Planning Australia and is funded by the Australian Government.

  • Website

    Advance project

    HammondCare

    Advance is a free toolkit of screening and assessment tools and a training package, designed to support nurses in Australian general practices to initiate advance care planning (ACP) and palliative care in everyday general practice.

  • Website

    ACPTalk website

    Cabrini Health

    Find informational support about advance care planning with people from different religious and cultural backgrounds.

  • Website

    Gold Standards Framework (GSF)

    GSF Centre CIC (UK)

    GSF is a systematic, evidence based approach to optimising care for all patients approaching the end-of-life, delivered by generalist care providers. It includes training programs, accreditation, tools and measures (UK website).