Care planning essential to ensure your medical wishes are carried out

Older adults are being encouraged to take control of their end-of-life care after a national study found a majority are failing to take the steps to secure the future of their health care.

The study, led by Advance Care Planning Australia (ACPA), found that 70 percent of Australians aged 65 or older are side-stepping the opportunity to control their end-of-life care, with men less likely to plan than women.

For the 30 percent of older Australians with some form of advance care planning document, the study found the majority of them are either incomplete, invalid or not legally binding. In Queensland, those documents include Enduring Power of Attorney, an Advance Health Directive or a Statement of Choices.

Advance care planning offers people the opportunity to clarify their medical treatment preferences in advance, preparing themselves and loved ones for a time when they can no longer communicate their wishes.

ACPA program director Linda Nolte said the study highlighted a looming minefield of family conflict and confusion with a generation of baby boomers entering their twilight years and dementia now being the leading cause of death for Australians aged 85+.

“While advance care planning is by no means mandatory, we’re concerned for older people who expect to remain in control of their medical decisions as they age. If choice and control is important to you, advance care planning should be on your radar,” Ms Nolte says.

“An important part of healthy ageing is making informal health choices. We urge people to take active steps to control their future care and create legally binding Advance Care Directives while they still have decision-making capacity. It means you’re more likely to get the care you want and avoid treatment you don’t want. It also relieves loved ones of the burden of making life-and-death decisions by guesswork.”

“We also encourage people to ensure their Advanced Care Directive is coherent and properly dated, signed and witnessed. It may be the difference between whether your doctor follows your directive or not.”

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