Honouring our loved ones through advance care planning

Written by Xanthe Sansome, National Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia

During National Advance Care Planning Week from 20 – 26 March, everyone is encouraged to think and talk about what matters most to us and how we want to live, right up to our last breath.

We should talk about what brings happiness, meaning and contentment to our days, where we would want to receive care and what medical treatments we would and would not want if our health deteriorated and we were unable to make decisions for ourselves. Exploring why these things are important to us helps both family and doctors understand our preferences.

We can also write down our preferences in an advance care directive and appoint a substitute decision-maker to be our chosen voice if we can’t speak for ourselves.

Advance Care Planning Australia Program Director, Xanthe Sansome, explains, “Making treatment decisions for someone else in the dark is very difficult, especially when we are faced with news that they are in a critical condition or approaching their end of life. Losing someone we love dearly is incredibly sad. We often wish we could stop them dying but unfortunately, we can’t.

Being able to honour their preferences for medical treatments, care or comfort is a deep privilege and makes the experience of dying uniquely personal for our loved ones. It motivates me to talk more to those I love about my preferences for my future care, so they are not left having to make a difficult decision during one of the worst moments in their lives.”

We need to make sure any completed advance care planning documents are available when they are needed. We should share copies with our chosen substitute decision-maker, family, our local hospital and other health providers. You can upload your advance care planning documents to My Health Record or your GP may be able to help you. If our documents are available in medical records in hospital and on My Health Record, they can be accessed when they are needed most – whether we are at home or travelling.

Free starter pack and support available

Visit advancecareplanning.org.au to access a free email starter pack and other information.

For free, personalised advice or to request a printed starter pack, call the National Advance Care Planning Support Service TM on 1300 208 582 from 9am – 5pm (AEST/AEDT) Monday to Friday.

You can also find face to face awareness raising events and online webinars available Australia-wide during National Advance Care Planning Week from 20 – 26 March.

Advance Care Planning AustraliaTM is funded by the Australian Government and administered by Austin Health.


Xanthe Sansome

Xanthe Sansome, National Program Manager
Advance Care Planning Australia

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