Teaching hospital, Austin Health and the government-funded Advance Care Planning Australia program have joined forces to encourage Australians to consider who would speak for them if they were unable to speak, and the health decisions they would want their advocate to make.
Given that about half of Australians will not be in a position to make their own end-of-life decisions, the organisations are launching a National Advance Care Planning Week later this year to improve families’ understanding of what their loved ones want.
Advance care planning is planning which aligns goals, beliefs, values and preferences. According to the organisation, it “prepares you and others to plan for future health care and a time when you may no longer be able to communicate those decisions yourself”.
Commenting on the event, the medical director of Advance Care Planning Australia, Dr Karen Detering said research shows that this sort of planning can reduce stress for people suddenly asked to make decisions for a loved one in their stead.
“Yet in Australia advance care planning is not common or widely understood.”
She continued: “In reality there's an extended 'grey' period, with more of us living with ongoing health issues. In fact 85 per cent of people die after a chronic illness, not a sudden event.
“We want to empower people to understand that they have a choice about their end-of-life care and the steps they can take today to ensure their preferences are known and respected."
The Planning Week website will have resources like conversation starters and forms for each state and territory, as well as videos and personal stories.
"Life is unpredictable. Your health status can change in an instant. This is a conversation for everyone, not just older Australians.
“We need to move beyond the taboos and discomfort about speaking about dying and treat advance care planning as a normal part of life, not unlike retirement planning", Ms Detering concluded.