Plan for the Best, in National Advance Care Planning Week
It’s National Advance Care Planning Week, and all Australians are being encouraged to make their future health care preferences known – not matter what their age or health status.
As Kathleen Wincen, Solicitor with TASC’s Seniors Legal and Support Service says, the best time to plan ahead for your health is now.
Working with older community members, Kathleen says, means she is often reminded that “we don’t know where life is going to take us, and we don’t always know what our partner or mum or dad would want if something went wrong.”
As Kathleen puts it, anyone over 18 years, but particularly people with chronic health conditions like diabetes, should consider “taking some time to think about your wishes and the ‘what-ifs’. Talk to your doctor, who has your complete medical history. Put it down on paper as an Advanced Health Directive.
“Ultimately this brings peace of mind and takes the burden off the other people in your life, meaning they have the chance to see your wishes carried out”.
To find out more about how to organise an Advance Health Directive, read Kathleen’s article below.
When To Get An Advance Health Directive
by Kathleen Wincen, Solicitor, Seniors Legal and Support Service
What is an Advance Health Directive?
An Advance Health Directive (AHD) is simply you outlining how you want to be cared for if you tragically lose the ability to make your own decisions around your health.
We all like to think we will be fit and healthy forever. However, sometimes that does not happen. It is not pleasant planning for the worst. But a plan will always make dealing with the worst that bit easier. Think about the peace of mind you’ll have knowing that your friends and family (and your doctors) will have the information they need to make the choices you would want.
So, even if you’re feeling fit and healthy, it’s still a good idea to consider writing an AHD now. In fact, while you have your health is the best time to record your health care wishes.
Preparing to make you Advance Health Directive
Take some quiet time to consider what’s important to you. It can also be a good idea to discuss your thoughts with close friends and family, and to have a lawyer prepare the document with you to ensure it is legally sound.
The Queensland Government has provided sound advice on what to do before you organise an Advance Health Directive. They recommend that before you complete an Advance Health Directive, you should:
- think about your views, wishes and preferences for your future health care
- talk to your family and friends
- talk to your doctor—they
- will have access to your medical history
- can help you understand how a particular illness may affect you
- can discuss treatment options and the effects of those treatments
- if you plan to appoint an attorney for health matters, consider who you want to appoint and talk to them about it. (Source: https://www.qld.gov.au/law/legal-mediation-and-justice-of-the-peace/power-of-attorney-and-making-decisions-for-others/advance-health-directive for more information and tips).
Making an Advance Health Directive
At some time in your life, you might not be able to make decisions about your health care – even temporarily. You might have an accident, acquired brain injury or be one of the almost half a million Australians living with dementia.
As the Queensland Government put it,
“An Advance Health Directive allows you to give directions about your future health care and wishes.
The best time to make an Advance Health Directive is now, before any urgent health condition arises.
It’s particularly important to make one if:
- you’re about to be admitted to hospital
- your medical condition is likely to affect your ability to make decisions
- you have a chronic medical condition that could cause serious complications (e.g. diabetes, asthma and heart or kidney disease)”.
It is highly recommended that you review your Advance Health Directive every two years, or if your circumstances change.
What to do with the completed form
Once you have completed the Advanced Health Directive, you do not have to lodge or register the form. However, it’s recommended that you store it in a safe place. Always let your loved ones, family and friends know that you have completed an Advance Health Directive – and where they can find it.
According to the Queensland Government, you should also give a certified copy to your attorney(s) (if appointed under an Enduring Power of Attorney), doctor, other health provider(s), bank or lawyer. This may include your local hospital, where they may add it to your patient file.
Always let people know you have made an Advance Health Directive and where to find it.
On 30 November 2020, important changes to Queensland’s guardianship system came into effect. The reforms includes changes to Guardianship laws and new forms, including a new Advance Health Directive Form.
Even though an Advance Health Directive isn’t a legal document and you don’t need a lawyer to ensure it is legally binding, a lawyer can still help you understand how your Advance Health Directive relates to other important documents and can express your words and your wishes in the most effective way.
TASC is able to provide legal advice to people who qualify for our services. If you need any assistance, please contact us for further information. You can find more information and a copy of the new Advance Health Directive Form at https://www.qld.gov.au/law/legal-mediation-and-justice-of-the-peace/power-of-attorney-and-making-decisions-for-others/advance-health-directive