Advance care planning enables a person to make decisions about their future health care in consultation with health care providers, family members and other important people in their lives.

Advance care planning in Victoria can include:

  • A person may appoint a medical treatment decision maker to make decisions on their behalf should they become unable to do so.
  • A person may document their wishes for future medical care in an advance care directive.

Advance care planning can remove the burden of responsibility from others when a person is no longer able to communicate their wishes, while also allowing the person to retain control of the circumstances of their death.

If a person has dementia, they may lack the decision making capacity to appoint a medical treatment decision maker or create an advance care directive. However, advance care planning can still take place.

The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 provides for how to determine a person’s medical treatment decision maker, should no formal appointment exist. In addition, even if no valid advance care directive exists, the medical treatment decision maker must still consider any other medical preferences and personal values the person has previously expressed.

When having advance care planning conversations, consider the following:

  • Life issues should be discussed shortly after a person moves into a facility.
  • Ideally, a doctor should be present when these issues are discussed.
  • An interdisciplinary approach enables all team members to understand and agree with the goals set for care.
  • When family members contribute to decision making around end of life care options for their loved ones, they face difficult emotions.
  • The medical treatment decision maker and family members should be provided with information about the expected course of the dementia, factors that might impede a natural death, the palliative approach and emotional support.
Visit health.vic's advance care planning section for advice and support for clinicians and other health and aged care providers on helping people to plan for future health and personal care.