Discussing your plan with others

Be open, be ready, be heard

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! Planning for the future is a normal part of life.

You might want to discuss your own advance care plan with others. Or perhaps you want to talk to family and carers about their own healthcare preferences, especially if they are diagnosed with a serious illness or getting older.

To get started, choose a quiet setting where you have a lot of time, so you know that you won't be interrupted. Be patient and take your time: you and your loved ones might need a few moments to think. Sometimes you might get a bit sidetracked and that's okay. Let the conversation happen naturally. You don't need to talk about everything all at once. Remember that advance care planning is an ongoing conversation.

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

Telling others about your preferences

  • 'I need your help with something.'
  • 'I want to talk about what would happen if I became really sick or had a bad accident.'
  • 'I think being able to have dinner and wine with my family every night is the most important thing to me. That's what I'd miss the most if I became really sick.'
  • 'I was thinking about what happened to our friend, and it made me realise that...'
  • 'I'm okay right now, but I've been thinking about what might happen to me.'
  • 'I was looking into advance care planning. It's where you talk about what's important to you so others know what you want.'

Asking someone else about their preferences

  • '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.'

Related resources

  • 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.

  • Website

    Dying to Talk Discussion Starter

    Palliative Care Australia

    The discussion starter guides you through the advance care planning discussion so you can prepare for talking to your family and friends, either online or with a booklet you can download.

  • 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.