How do I start the conversation?

Be open about values and preferences

About half of Australians will not be able to make or express their own decisions when an illness progresses, so we need to be prepared.

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. 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:

  • 'What is it about life that you really value the most?'
  • 'For you, what would be an acceptable or reasonable quality of life in the future?'
  • 'I was thinking about the future and how I'd want my end-of-life to be. Have you ever thought about it?'
  • 'Remember when our friend died? Did you think that was a "good death" or a "bad death"?'
  • 'Is there anything you really want to experience as your life goes on?'
  • '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.'
Senior mother and daughter smiling

Advance care planning for family, friends and carers

Help someone start a plan

You can start the conversation about advance care planning, and help a person make a plan.

Read more information

Related resources

  • Fact sheet

    Advance care planning fact sheet for substitute decision-makers

    Advance Care Planning Australia

    Information about advance care planning for substitute decision-makers.
  • Website

    MyValues website

    Barwon Health

    MyValues is an online resource to help people identify, consider and communicate their preferences about the health and personal care they would want in the later stages of life. The website provides advance care planning information and allows for development of a MyValues Report.
  • Website

    Dying to Talk website

    Palliative Care Australia

    Dying to Talk encourages Australians of all ages and levels of health to talk about dying. Having a conversation with your loved ones about your end-of-life wishes will help them to make decisions on your behalf should you be unable to communicate your wishes.
  • 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.

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