ACP and the elderly

Advance care planning is certainly possible and does occur in varying degrees across residential aged care settings. Involving residents and their families in this process is beneficial. Advance care planning provides the resident (or their family if the resident is no longer able to make decisions for themselves) a supported process in which they can express their values and their preferences for future healthcare. In this way, individuals continue to have a say in their medical care, even if they become too ill to make their own decisions. Family and friends are relieved of the burden of having to make decisions without knowing an individual’s choices. 

Having an advance care planning conversation is not always easy, as it may involve difficult and confronting topics. But it is far better to discuss these issues calmly and honestly before any crisis occurs. Many residents and families express a sense of relief on completion of the conversation. One resident stated, 'It is so good to get this all out in the open'. And a daughter said, 'I never knew Mum held these beliefs and wishes, and I am so grateful that I was involved in this discussion, which will allow me to honour them'. 

Advance care planning is also possible in community aged care settings, such as for recipients of Home Care Packages1.

To maximise positive impact, the implementation of an advance care planning program requires a system-wide approach, involving key elements such as executive support, staff education and training, as well as documentation and quality systems.

Notes

1. In a recent study in Victoria, approximately two-thirds of Home Care Package recipients had advance care planning initiated by case managers who had received some advance care planning training.


Related resources

  • Website

    My Aged Care

    Australian Government

    My Aged Care helps people navigate the aged care system. My Aged Care is part of the Australian Government’s changes to the aged care system which have been designed to give people more choice, more control and easier access to a full range of aged care services.
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    Information for residential aged care (RAC)

    CareSearch

    Find information and resources for staff working in residential aged care (RAC).
  • Articles & Publications

    Managing pain in residential aged care facilities

    Australian Pain Society (APS)

    Outlines management strategies and good practice principles to assist health professionals to successfully identify, assess and manage pain in residential aged care residents.
  • Website

    Ageing and Aged Care

    Australian Government Department of Health

    Information, tools and resources from the Department of Health to support the aged care sector through evidence-based policy, well targeted programs, and best practice regulation.

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