How do I start the conversation?

Be open about values and preferences

Around four in ten people will not be able to make their own end-of-life medical decisions, so we need to be prepared. 1

If a person's treatment preferences are not known, doctors may use aggressive treatments that the person might not have wanted - and families may feel burdened by the worry that they will make a wrong choice.

So you shouldn't be afraid to raise the subject with the person you are supporting. Planning for the future is a normal part of life and healthcare. Yet less than 15% of Australians have documented their preferences.2 

Most people are not used to talking about end-of-life care, so they may need some time to think before they talk about their choices. Let the conversation happen naturally and listen. Encourage the person to speak with their family, friends, carer and/or doctor.

Advance care planning is an ongoing conversation - it should not happen only one time. Everyone's values and goals change, so they might want to change their advance care plan.

Starting the conversation can be the hardest part, so here are a few ways to begin:

Conversation starters


1. Silveira MJ, Kim SY and Langa KM. Advance directives and outcomes of surrogate decision making before death. New England Journal of Medicine. 2010; 362: 1211-8.

2. White B, Tilse C, Wilson J, et al. Prevalence and predictors of advance directives in Australia. Internal medicine journal. 2014; 44: 975-80.


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Help someone make an Advance Care Directive

Booklets and guides

Advance care planning companion guides

Mother and daughter hug

Advance Care Planning

A personal guide

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

Download PDF (2.7MB)
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Advance Care Planning

Getting started

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

Download PDF (4.3MB)