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Australia: the advance planning research has spoken!

Updated: Sep 29

Compelling reasons to undertake and complete in-depth advance planning has been published in by the BMJ. As an End of Life Consultant who specialises in consumer education and advance planning for clients I find the very low percentage concerning. Leaving your advance planning and preferences/wishes to chance often means distress for friends and family, additional procedures (along with attendant costs), and a quality of life that may not meet your expectations or wants.


Frank discussions with the people closest to you, and having your plans signed by your GP and witnessed by a JP are essential - and practical - steps to completing your advance planning.

In a recent study, 70% of Australians do not have Advance Health Care Directives (AHCDs) or Advance Care Plans (ACPs) in place. Aged care facility residents are more likely than those presenting to hospitals from home to have care plans in place, but the sobering reality is that more than two thirds of Australians have no advance planning in writing when emergency situations occur.


When we are admitted to the hospital due to accident or illness, we may not be in a position to articulate our wishes - and if we have not had full and frank conversations with the people closest to us then guesswork between medical staff and close family or friends will be taken in an ad hoc manner. There is an odd, and deleterious, social expectation that advance planning is morbid, unwelcome, or unnatural, but the fact is that when we plan for our end of life by articulating our advance health wishes then everyone's life becomes easier. There is also a good deal of evidence that when families and close friends discuss, plan, and write down health care objectives, preferences, and goals together then there is very little dissention about having those wishes enacted when the need arises. People who are left out of discussions, however, often stymie and derail care measures (including organ donation, Do Not Resuscitate [DNR] orders, and medication or feeding wishes).


Younger people often neglect advance planning entirely, leaving family to make difficult decisions for them in times of need. Young people do die, unfortunately, so advance planning is also important for the younger generations.

Another social block for planning is age-related: young people tend to avoid talk about death, dying, or advance planning as we do expect to live long, rich lives in our Australian 21st century culture. However, death by suicide, illness, injury, and accident also affects younger people. Open and detailed talks with family, along with an AHCD that is regularly reviewed to ensure it is appropriate and accurate benefits all of us, regardless of age, and may also help older family and friends take action about ensuring their plans are in place, written down, and clearly articulated.


Advance planning is for everyone. Start a conversation today.


Are you interested in learning about what kinds of advance planning is important for you, and what you need to consider for your plan? Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me - I am an End of Life Consultant and educator who specialises in planning support and education, as well as a NSW JP who can witness signatures on the spot.


Let's talk about your plan - email me at info@gdep.com.au for an appointment today.

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