Be prepared! Medical experts urging Aussies to update advance care plans

Mar 17, 2020
Medical experts said Australians should consider updating their advance care plan as cases of coronavirus continue to rise. Source: Getty

Experts are urging Australians to put in place advance care plans which clearly outline their medical treatment preferences, as well as documenting the person they wish to make their decisions should they become suddenly unwell, as the spread of coronavirus continues to put the older population at serious risk.

Over the past few months the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Australia have risen steadily and with uncertainty around how long the pandemic will last, medical professionals have said the time is now to update advance care planning procedures. Dr Chris Moy, Chair of the AMA Ethics and Medico-Legal Committee, said there’s no time to waste and families need to be prepared for the months ahead when they may suddenly be called upon to make a decision for their loved one who may become suddenly ill with the virus.

“Advance care planning is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for older Australians, particularly those with existing conditions such as lung and heart disease, cancer and diabetes,” he said. “We recommend they start a conversation with people close to them and potentially choose a substitute decision maker they can trust to make decisions for them if needed.”

Moy said while these conversations can be challenging, particularly in light of the anxiety around Covid-19, being prepared for future events can also provide individuals and families with peace-of-mind, amidst the uncertainty of these unsettling times.

“Best case scenario is that these plans are never required,” he said. “But it can be reassuring for a person to know they have some control. It’s also a great gift to give your family and lessen the burden of difficult future decisions.”

Advance Care Planning Australia (ACPA) operates a free National Advisory Service to support the general public, as well as health and aged care providers. They recommend completing an Advance Care Directive and/or formally appointing a substitute decision maker.

The Advance Care Directive is a written record of your preferences for future care. It can also record your values, life goals and preferred outcomes, or directions about care and treatments.

Dr Karen Detering, Medical Director of ACPA said they’ll retain full service during this crisis to assist Australians and advised anyone unsure of what to do to call the team for assistance.

“We understand that there’s a lot of confusion and fear at the moment,” she said. “While we don’t want to exacerbate anxieties, we do want Australian families to feel as prepared as possible for what lies ahead.

“I’ve seen what families go through when they are required to make these decisions for family members in an emergency and without preparation. A little planning today can go a long way towards alleviating the decision-making burden left to your loved ones. Be clear about what you want or don’t want. It starts with a simple conversation about what living well means to you.”

If you’d like more information about Advance Care Directives or how Advance Care Planning Australia can help you, you can do so by clicking here.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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Do you have an Advance Care Directive? Have you had the conversation around medical treatment preferences with family members?

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