Friday, December 21, 2012

Advance Care Planning

On Tuesday 20 November 2012, HCCA was host to an information session run by Respecting Patient Choices to promote the importance of Advanced Care Planning in the ACT. The session covered why advanced care planning is vital to protect our wishes, how an Advanced Care Plan can do this and how to properly complete an Advanced Care Plan. 

In the ACT, the Respecting Patient Choices Program encourages discussion among loved ones, rather than focusing on ticking boxes on paper. Advanced care can often be a difficult subject to raise but it is vital we discuss our wishes with our loved ones to alleviate the stress and pain of having to make choices about our healthcare if they are unsure of our wishes. End of life and medical emergencies can be a time of crises for our family and friends and can cause conflict. An Advanced Care Plan can help relieve this strain on them and the health professionals who make decisions about our care. 

Having a voice in our own health care throughout our life is an important step to being in control of the care we receive. In the ACT, the Advanced Care Plan allows us to record our wishes should there be a time where we are unable to communicate them effectively to those around us. The Advanced Care Plan allows for three different ways to communicate how we would like to be treated: the Enduring Power of Attorney, the Statement of Choices and the Health Direction. 

An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) is a legal document that allows you to appoint another person or persons to make decisions on your behalf. An attorney can be anyone over the age of 18. In the ACT, there are different types of EPA and you can allocate different people to those roles. For example, you may want a different attorney for your financial interests than your attorney for your medical interests. It is important to choose someone you trust to carry out your wishes as this document will give them the power to speak on your behalf. 

Communication between you and your attorney/s is vital to ensure everyone is aware of what you want. A Statement of Choices (competent person / incompetent person) is a useful record of your particular wishes in certain situations. This document allows for more detail than the Enduring Power of Attorney, and although it is not legally binding it can be a very useful guide for your EPA when choosing what type of care you will receive if you are unable to communicate. When completing a Statement of Choices it is important to communicate clearly when you would like to receive or not receive particular treatment. For example, ‘I would like to receive CPR if I will be able to speak to others when I wake up’ is a much clearer direction then ‘I would like to receive CPR if I will be able to go back to the way I was’. 

A Health Direction is a legally binding document used when you are still competent and able to communicate to legally cease treatment.    

Regardless of your views on the care you wish to receive, it is vital to communicate them to those around you. The Advanced Care Plan in the ACT allows you to do this effectively and in a legally binding manner and encourages discussion between you and those who will be ultimately responsible for your health care.

If you would like more information about Advance Care Planning, visit the Respecting Patient Choices Website. 

Caitlin Stamford
Consumer Representatives Program Assistant 

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