Thursday, December 7, 2023

Now is the time to plan for your future health care


Mark lives on his farm in a rural town in western Queensland. It’s a small farm but keeps him busy and gives him a sense of purpose after the sudden passing of his wife a year ago.

He enjoys tending to his chickens and growing vegetables, finding great satisfaction in the regular tasks of farm life. At 76, Mark is determined to take care of the property on his own.

His family are concerned about him living by himself, but are happy that Mark is enjoying the peace and solitude of his new life. Mark’s son David visits his dad several times a week without fail. 

One afternoon, David comes to visit his father and finds him collapsed and unresponsive in the garden. David rings 000 and anxiously waits for the ambulance to arrive. He doesn’t have any of his father’s paperwork, nor did they discuss Mark’s health care choices. His father avoided any conversations related to his health after his wife passed away.

Fortunately, David remembers discussions he had with his mum about the advance care planning (ACP) documents she insisted Mark fill out with the support of their GP. In fact, he had helped his parents send copies of their documents to the Statewide Office of ACP for uploading to the Queensland Health electronic medical record, where doctors could access the documents if needed.

On arrival at the local Multipurpose Health Service, David is relieved to learn that the doctor had already identified David as Mark’s substitute decision-maker through Mark’s advance care plan. The doctor said: “I have accessed your father’s Statement of Choices from our electronic medical records, and I see that he wrote he wishes to be back on his farm, with all reasonable measures tried to restore him to his active and independent life. We have begun to do just that, and he is responding very well.”

What is advance care planning (ACP)?

Advance care planning involves thinking about future health care choices. It is a process of communicating your wishes, values, beliefs and health care preferences with your family, friends and health care providers. It also involves documenting these preferences if you wish. 

Why should you plan?

Planning ahead can help to ensure:

  • The treatment and care you receive in the future are aligned with your wishes
  • Your loved ones won’t have to make difficult decisions in a crisis situation on your behalf without knowing what you would have wanted
  • Your words guide those making decisions about your health care when you can’t speak for yourself.

Even if you are fit and healthy, it is never too early to plan your future health care.

Planning ahead can mean:

  • Discussing your health care and quality of life choices with those closest to you, and
  • Choosing a substitute decision-maker by appointing an Enduring Power of Attorney(s), and/or
  • Completing an Advance Health Directive and/or
  • Writing down your values, beliefs and health care preferences in a Statement of Choices.

Before her passing, Mark’s wife had convinced Mark to visit his GP and start a discussion about advance care planning. Even though they were both well at the time, the GP said that it’s always good to be prepared, just in case. With the support of their GP, an Enduring Power of Attorney was completed, naming David as their substitute decision maker, and a Statement of Choices, setting out their preferences for future health care. 

David sent copies of the documents to the Statewide Office of Advance Care Planning. The Office reviewed and uploaded the documents to the Queensland Health electronic medical record so that their documented wishes could be easily accessed by clinicians, both within and external to Queensland Health, when required.

When Mark was bought to the Multipurpose Health Service, the doctor was able to access his ACP documents quickly and provide the type of care that aligned with his life goals. 

What does the Statewide Office of ACP do?

The Office receives copies of the following ACP documents from all care environments in Queensland:

  • Advance Health Directive
  • Enduring Power of Attorney
  • Statement of Choices
  • Queensland Civil and Administration Tribunal Orders.

Documents are reviewed to ensure they are effective and then uploaded to the person’s Queensland Health electronic medical record.

  • This is a free and confidential service for all Queenslanders, provided by Queensland Health. 
  • ACP documents are free to download, or a hard copy information pack can be mailed to you. 

For more information

Visit: mycaremychoices.com.au

Phone: 1300 007 227 (Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 4:00pm)

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