Mar 20, 2024

Make your wishes heard with an advance healthcare directive

Karen Gregory, Resthaven Palliative Care Advanced Practice Nurse_Cropped
Karen Gregory. [Source: Supplied]

Advance Care Planning empowers older individuals to make decisions about their future medical care in line with their personal values, beliefs, and preferences. This ensures that their autonomy and dignity are respected, even if they are unable to communicate their wishes later due to illness or incapacity.

For Karen Gregory, Resthaven’s Palliative Care Advanced Practice Nurse, Advance Care Planning Week (March 18-25) is a timely reminder that everyone over the age of 18 should have an Advance Care Directive. 

“We’re not good at talking about our wishes for death and dying,” Karen says. “But the alternative is much worse. There might be a time in your life when you can’t make your own decisions. By having a plan, you can avoid putting the additional stress on family and friends by making choices on your behalf.”

At Resthaven, all residents and clients are encouraged to have an advance care directive and to view it as a ‘living’ document that is updated as circumstances and preferences change. 

“Advance Care Planning is a huge part of the role that Resthaven nurses and clinicians play at our residential care facilities,” Karen says. “We encourage residents and clients to have open and honest conversations and to be clear about what their wishes are.”

Lesley Habel, National Manager for Advance Care Planning Australia says, “Even if you are healthy and well, advance care planning is important. It involves thinking and communicating about your wishes and preferences for future health care.

“It’s so important to have the conversation, so you can make sure your decisions and preferences are not forgotten at times when you can’t voice your decisions about your treatment and care,” says Lesley.

What is an Advance Care Directive? 

An Advance Care Directive is the written instructions of your wishes when it comes to death and dying. An Advance Care Directive is used when a person is no longer capable of making their own decisions. 

Some of the questions to consider when filling in an advance care directive are: 

  • What is important to me? 
  • What treatments do I want to avoid? 
  • Where do I want to live?
  • Any other personal arrangements to be considered? 
  • What are my dying wishes?

Communication is very important 

Advance Care Planning facilitates discussions about the kind of care individuals want to receive as they age or face serious illness. By expressing their preferences in advance, older Australians can ensure that their medical treatments align with their goals for quality of life, potentially avoiding unnecessary suffering or interventions that do not align with their values.

“Take the opportunity this Advance Care Planning Week to have a conversation with your family members about planning for death and dying,” says Karen. 

This has the ability to contribute to more efficient allocation of healthcare resources by guiding medical professionals and policymakers in delivering care that is aligned with patients’ preferences. This can help prevent the overuse of medical interventions in futile situations and allow resources to be directed towards treatments that align with patients’ goals and values.

“National Advance Care Planning Week is the perfect time to share what matters most about your future health care preferences and wishes. Advance care planning means respecting who you are and what you want known at critical times when you can’t speak for yourself – it gives you a voice”, adds Lasley.

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