Advance care planning means making a plan for future health and personal care, should the person lose their decision-making capacity. An advance care plan documents peoples values and wishes, and enables them to continue to influence treatment decisions, even when they can no longer actively participate. There are four main benefits of advance care planning:

  • reduces stress for the family
  • clarifies treatments the patient does and doesn't want
  • identifies the substitute decision maker
  • gives the patient and family peace of mind.
Recognising that the patient is most likely in their last twelve months of life is a trigger for initiating or revisiting their advance care plan. Admission to hospital is also a good opportunity to discuss advance care planning.

In the presence of advancing disease it is important to articulate the benefits and burdens of treatment options. Ask for help from the palliative care consultancy service if you feel unsure about how to discuss this well with the patient and family.

If you don’t have access to a palliative care consultancy service, ask for help from a clinician with appropriate skills. This may be a senior colleague or a specialist, such as a geriatrician, or a peer.

See more about advance care planning in the Advance care planning section.

Refer to Therapeutic guidelines palliative care 2016 version 4 on the Clinicians Health Channel at your health service