How to start the conversation

Be open | Be ready | Be heard

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!  Planning for the future is a normal part of life. Yet less than 15% of Australians have documented their preferences.2 

You might want to discuss your own Advance Care Directive 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.

How to start the conversation

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:

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.

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)
Grandfather holding granddaughter on lap

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)