What is advance care planning?

Planning for future care

If you were very unwell and not able to communicate your preferences to others, who would you want to speak for you? What would you want them to say?

Advance care planning helps to ensure that your loved ones and your doctors know what your health and personal preferences really are. That can give everyone some peace of mind.

Advance care planning can simply be a conversation with a trusted loved one. You can also write down your beliefs, values and preferences or fill in a form relevant to your state or territory. A written plan is known as an advance care plan or advance care directive.

You don't have to be ill to make a plan. Even if you're young and healthy, you should think about your preferences and discuss them with your loved ones, honestly and openly.

The process is simple: think about your values, then discuss them with your family, friends and doctor. You can choose someone to make decisions for you if you are ever unable to do so yourself. That person is known as a 'substitute decision-maker' and they will be your advocate.

You don't have to do all the steps for advance care planning in one go. They can be done over time as you're ready to do them.

Remember that an advance care plan only goes into effect if you are unable make decisions for yourself. If that time ever comes, your advance care plan will guide your loved ones and doctors so that they can make decisions that respect your values and preferences.

Related resources

  • Fact sheet

    Advance care planning fact sheet for individuals and family

    Advance Care Planning Australia

    Information about advance care planning for individuals and their families.
  • Form

    Advance Care Plan - Form/Template (VIC)

    Victorian Government

    The state of Victoria offers a template that a person may fill out or use as an example to write their own advance care directive. Write down specific information relating to your wishes, values and any treatments you would not wish to receive.
  • 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.
  • Case study

    James' Story

    Advance Care Planning Australia

    James and his wife talk about James' experience in hospital and the impact on his family when needing to make decisions about his healthcare.

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