Advance care planning is an important process that can give you and your family peace of mind, but it can be a difficult subject to raise. The Inside Story spoke to Professor Patsy Yates, Director of the Centre for Palliative Care Research and Education at Queensland University of Technology, to find out more about why developing an advance care plan is important.
What is advance care planning?
Advance care planning is a way of letting people know your wishes and preferences for health care that is consistent with your goals, values, beliefs and preferences if you are in a situation where you can’t communicate these yourself. It is about working out what is important to you and sharing this with your loved ones.
Advance care planning can include legal documents where your wishes and preferences are recorded. You can find out what these documents are called in your state or territory on the Advance Care Planning Australia website.
Why is it important?
We all have things that are important to us. Many people have preferences about the care they will receive at the end of their life: things like where they would like to be, what sort of medication they do or don’t want, and how much treatment they will accept.
It can be hard to talk or even think about death and dying. However, because we never know when we will be unable to make our wishes known, it is important to have these discussions while we still can.
Talking about our preferences helps our loved ones. If we are unable to communicate our wishes, our friends and family might be asked to make decisions on our behalf. Sharing your wishes with those closest to you can help them feel confident that they are making the choices you would want.
Writing down your wishes in a legal document and keeping it in a safe spot – and letting others know where this is – is helpful so that there is a clear record of your choices.
Why is it helpful at all stages of the cancer journey?
As your treatment changes your choices may also change. It is important to revisit your advance care plan from time to time and share any changes with your loved ones. Updating any documents is also a good idea.
Who can I talk to about advance care planning?
Your GP is a good person to talk to about advance care planning. Your medical oncologist and your nurses can also help. You might also like to speak with your lawyer or legal adviser about paperwork and other important documents. If you feel you can’t talk to your GP, oncologist or nurses, you can get advice from Advance Care Planning Australia.
BCNA’s Helpline can also help you and refer you to other supports. You can call the Helpline on 1800 500 258.