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National Advance Care Planning Week, 20-26 March, encourages you, regardless of your age or health status, to make your future health care preferences known.

This year’s theme is: The time is now to talk about what matters most to you. The 2023 campaign challenges everyone to discuss what living well means to you and to consider who you would want to speak for you, if you could no longer communicate or make your own healthcare decisions.

Aged care nurse practitioner at Lutheran Services in Queensland, Melanie Wagner said this year’s slogan was fitting. “We need to take time to plan for our end of life care. We take time to plan for having a family, having a baby, preparing for the birth – but we do not take time to plan for how we would like end of life care to be for us. As hard as it is, it’s important to speak about.”

The campaign been successful in starting tough but important conversations across the country. Advance care planning (AC)) was relevant to healthcare professionals both in their professional and personal lives, said Nurse Unit Manager, QLD Statewide Office of ACP Leanne Clemesha.

“All healthcare professionals have a role in supporting the ACP process. ACP is a voluntary and interactive process that can give a person choice. No matter the age or the healthcare setting, it’s important for people to make their preferences known now about what matters to you.”

This includes health outcomes that you would find acceptable or unacceptable at end of life and how you would like to be cared for after you die, Ms Clemesha said.

Advance care planning involves thinking and making choices now, to guide your future healthcare, it is a process of communicating your wishes, values, beliefs and treatment preferences with your family, friends and healthcare providers. It is a voluntary process and the documents are used to inform families and healthcare professionals and guide them when making future healthcare decisions for the consumer.

More than 50% of Australians will not be able to make their own medical decisions at end-of-life but only 15% of people have an advance care directive. Advance care directives differ between states and territories.

Lutheran Services Queensland introduced ACP in their admission process and ongoing care plan evaluations, and found it resulted in increased participation and community engagement in ACP along with more holistic care, open communication which reduced conflict, an increase in spiritual and value-based care as part of end-of-life care, and less hospital admissions at end-of-life, Ms Wagner presented, in a lunchbox session during ACP Week.

“It’s [ACP] absolutely invaluable as a nurse practitioner in aged care who will tackle those conversations with a person and families when required. It takes patience and endurance to have those conversations,” M Wagner said.

“My role is to support and facilitate early conversation and to assist in recognising deterioration and highlighting the need for advance care planning. Nurse practitioners are now able to sign off on SOCs.”

Statement of Choice (SOC) a value-based document, not legally binding were a useful tool to help guide healthcare professionals about decision-making for a person in the future, she said.

Advance Care Planning Australia Program Director Xanthe Sansome said ACP was important regardless of a person’s current health status. “Through the pandemic, we have been confronted with the reality that any of us could become critically ill at any time. Advance care planning is not something any of us should delay any longer.”

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said it was estimated that there were more than 400,000 Australians living with dementia in 2023. “Without a medical breakthrough, the number of people with dementia is expected to double by 2058. Each and every one of us should have an advance care plan and this becomes even more compelling in the face of diseases such as dementia and other life-limiting diseases.”

Access resources and support

Visit to access a free email starter pack, an Advance Care Planning Improvement Toolkit for workplaces and resources in 18 languages.

For free advice or to make a referral, call the National Advance Care Planning Support Service on 1300 208 582 from 9am – 5pm (AEST/AEDT) Monday to Friday.

Advance Care Planning Australia is funded by the Australian Government and administered by Austin Health