For family, friends and carers

Talking about goals, values, and preferences

Anyone can start and promote conversations about a person's preferences for their future health and personal care. If a person ever becomes seriously ill or injured and cannot make or communicate their own decisions, an advance care plan makes sure that their beliefs, values and preferences for treatment are understood and respected. The plan only comes into effect when a person loses the ability to make decisions or express their choices.

An advance care plan can simply be a conversation or it can be written down. A written care plan is the best way to make sure that a person's preferences will be respected.

As a part of their advance care plan, a person can choose a "substitute decision-maker", who would make decisions for the person if they were not able to communicate. If you have to make a decision for another person, the best way to approach this is to try to make the decision the person themselves would have made if they had been able to. This means "standing in the shoes" of the person – seeing the choices to be made from the perspective they would have had. We're here to help you learn how to make your preferences known or support others.

What are the benefits of advance care planning?

Advance care planning benefits everyone:  the person, their family, carers, health professionals and associated organisations.

  • It helps to ensure people receive the care they actually want.
  • It improves ongoing and end-of-life care, along with personal and family satisfaction with care received.1
  • Bereaved families of people who have an advance care plan have less anxiety, depression, stress and are more satisfied with care.1
  • For healthcare professionals and organisations, it reduces unnecessary transfers to acute care and unwanted treatment.2

1. Detering, KM, Hancock, AD, Reade, MC, Silvester, W 2010, ‘The impact of advance care planning on end of life care in elderly patients: randomised controlled trial’, British Medical Journal, 340: c1345.doi:10.1136.
2. Brinkman-Stoppelenburg A, Rietjens JA, van der Heide A. The effects of advance care planning on end-of-life care: a systematic review. Palliat Med 2014; 28: 1000–1025.

Daughter helping senior mother on walk

Advance care planning for family, friends and carers

What is advance care planning?

If a person was unable to make decisions, an advance care plan tells their family and healthcare team what treatments they would want.

Read more information

Related resources

  • Fact sheet

    Advance care planning fact sheet for individuals and family

    Advance Care Planning Australia

    Information about advance care planning for individuals and their families.
  • Fact sheet

    Advance care planning fact sheet for substitute decision-makers

    Advance Care Planning Australia

    Information about advance care planning for substitute decision-makers.
  • Articles & Publications

    Advance care planning workbook

    Central Coast Local Health District

    A step-by-step workbook for individuals, carers and families on how to approach, discuss and start documenting your advance care planning preferences.
  • Website

    Dying to Talk Discussion Starter

    Palliative Care Australia

    The discussion starter guides you through the advance care planning discussion so you can prepare for talking to your family and friends, either online or with a booklet you can download.

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