Step 2: Start the conversation

Step 2: Start the conversation

Be open: learn what matters to them.

In an advance care planning conversation, you encourage a person to think about their preferences for current and future healthcare. You can help them to start thinking about what is most important in life - reflecting on their goals, values and beliefs.  It's also useful to consider various medical treatments and their possible range of outcomes.

They might want to get more information from you, family members, friends, doctors, spiritual advisers, therapists and support: anyone who might be involved in their future care, as well as anyone important to them.

Importantly, explain why a person might like to choose a substitute decision-maker: someone who would make decisions on their behalf if they were unable to communicate for themselves. Their substitute decision-maker should be someone who is not a paid carer or healthcare provider. The substitute decision-maker will need to be:

  • available (living in the same city or region)
  • over the age of 18
  • prepared to speak clearly and confidently on the person's behalf when talking to doctors, other health professionals and family members.

Note that states and territories in Australia have different laws regarding advance care planning. Depending on the state or territory:

  • substitute decision-maker may be legally appointed as an ‘agent’, ‘guardian’, ‘enduring guardian’ or ‘enduring power of attorney’
  • an advance care plan may also be called an ‘advance care directive’ or an ‘advance health directive’ and may include a ‘refusal of treatment certificate’.

In some states and territories, some documents (for example, refusal of health care, refusal of treatment) are legally binding and the instructions must be carried out.


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