Planning your end-of-life treatment isn’t a priority for most people. The reality is that only 15 per cent of Australians has actually documented their health preferences. Yet, it could be one of the most important decisions we ever make.
Research by Advance Care Planning Australia, funded by the Australian Government, shows that only thirty per cent of the sixty-five plus population is prepared with instructions for their final medical care.
Adelaide general practitioner Dr Chris Moy has often come across situations when patients lose control of their end-of-life medical treatment.
He says it’s due to a lack of planning and conversation on the sensitive subject while they are still able to express themselves.
Dr Moy recommends thinking ahead and communicating your wishes to those whom you trust.
Linda Nolte is the Program Director of Advance Care Planning Australia.
She says a chat with your loved ones often isn’t enough for your final wishes to be granted.
She shares the example of a healthy 75-year-old-man who had instructed his family not to resuscitate him if he ever becomes critically ill.
Unfortunately, he was left in the very situation he tried to avoid when he became unconscious in a life-threatening emergency.
Most Australian states and territories have laws that support advance care planning except for New South Wales and Tasmania.
Nolte says the instructions of whether or not to receive life-prolonging treatment must be clear for the clinicians to follow.
There is a process where people can appoint the person they want to make decisions for them when they are no longer able to express themselves rather than leaving things to chance and the default system under the law.
The reality is that only 15 per cent of the Australian population has actually documented their health preferences at the end of life.
It is even less likely for those whose first language isn’t English to have an advance care plan.
Having worked in oncology and aged care for many years, Linda Nolte has often seen family conflicts that could be prevented if directives were communicated in the first place.
In the Chinese culture that Dr Chris Moy was raised in, the word “death” is a taboo not to be uttered.
While it’s a sensitive topic in some cultures, Dr Moy says it’s necessary for people nearing the end of life to discuss it with their loved ones.
Dr Moy says sometimes it’s about discussing your values and beliefs to work out what sort of medical care is in your best interest.
He highlights a fairly common scenario of people with diabetes being confronted with the potential of amputation.
It’s also about considering the quality of life you want and the legacy you wish to leave behind.
To learn more, visit advancecareplanning.org.au for information available in 16 languages or dial 1300 208 582 for advice.
Language support is available via the nationwide Translating and Interpreting Service by ringing 13 14 50.