If you were seriously ill or injured and unable to communicate your wishes, who would make decisions about your care or treatment? Would they even know what you want?
Advance Directives are a good way to help your loved ones and doctors make health care decisions based on your individual values and beliefs, when you are no longer able to.

What is an Advance Directive?

An Advance Directive is an instruction about a person’s future medical treatment and healthcare and is used if that person loses the capacity to make decisions. Much like a Will, it allows a person to communicate to family, friends and health professionals their wishes around end of life treatment and care.

Advance Directives are also known as Advance Health Directives, Living Wills, Refusal of Treatment Certificates, Advance Personal Plans and Medical Directions.

When Should Someone Make an Advance Directive?

Ideally, you should start planning your future healthcare wishes when you are fit and healthy. However, life doesn’t always work that way! If you’ve not thought about an Advance Directive yet, it may be time to consider one if you:

  • Are older
  • Suffer from a terminal illness
  • Are at risk (or in the early stages) of dementia or a related illness
  • Have an advanced chronic illness

What Does an Advance Directive Cover?

Advances in medicine means there are always new treatments that can keep you alive when you are gravely ill. They may even prolong your life. However, under the stress of such an event, your family may find it extremely difficult to decide which treatment is right for you. And the one they choose may not be what you want.

By making an Advanced Directive, you can provide your thoughts and wishes on:

  • Whether to die at home or in hospital
  • The choice to refuse, withdraw, or persist with specific treatments such as blood transfusions, resuscitation and assisted ventilation
  • Religious or cultural belief around treatment
  • Who will make other health care decisions if you no longer have capacity to make them yourself.

While you still have the capacity, you can retract or alter your Advance Directive at any time.

Talk To Your Family And The Experts

Start your Advance Directive journey by talking to your loved ones about what your wishes are. While end of life health and care can be a difficult subject to broach, having your family aware of your wishes can save much confusion and stress later. You may even consider chatting to your doctor about different treatment options available. This will be especially useful if you already have a diagnosis. They’ll also help to ensure your wishes are expressed in a way that makes sense to other health professionals. Finally, talk to your legal adviser about putting your Advance Directive in writing. While an Advance Directive can be done orally, we recommend putting it in writing so as to make things easier and less stressful for your loved ones later.

None of us can control what will happen in the future, especially when it comes to our health. However, our preferences around treatment can be clearly articulated. Talk to your family and legal adviser to help have your wishes heard. For more information, contact Edney Ryan on 02 9908 9888 or email legal@edneyryan.com.au.