Beginning 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. 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.

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. For example:

  • 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)

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)

Conversation starters

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

More information

More resources for health and care workers

  • Website

    Advance Care Planning: Have The Conversation

    AMA Victoria

    A free training resource from AMA Victoria that helps Victorian doctors to discuss end of life decision making with their patients.
  • Articles & Publications

    Difficult but necessary conversations — the case for advance care planning

    The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA)

    Many patients receive inappropriate or futile end-of-life care that can be avoided with conversations about care preferences ahead of time.
  • 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.