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Around 70% of older Australians are without an Advanced Care Directive. This means they are not leaving instructions in the event that they’re unable to make their own medical decisions.

The research,  conducted by Advance Care Planning Australia (ACPA) and funded by the Australian government,  is the largest and most comprehensive study into the prevalence of Advance Care Directives in Australia.

The study found  approximately 30% of  the people reviewed had an Advance Care Directive. Of the 30% some had documented their preferences for care, others had appointed a substitute decision-maker ( a person legally empowered to make decisions of their behalf) and some of had done both.

“With Australia’s ageing population, it’s concerning that most older Australians are leaving it to chance and not taking active control of their future healthcare, said Dr Karen Detering, Medical Director of Advance Care Planning Australia.

“Without a plan, older people may be left vulnerable and potentially without a voice. And far too often loved ones are left to blindly make decisions under the worst circumstances. As a medical practitioner I’ve witnessed these scenarios and I can tell you it’s a heart-breaking way to say goodbye to your loved ones.

“The research findings are a great starting point for us to better understand the Australian advance care planning landscape. This valuable baseline data will be used to inform policy in advance care planning, which is becoming an increasing healthcare priority,” said Dr Detering.

As the national authority on advance care planning, ACPA is continuing research into advance care planning prevalence with a view to better understanding the barriers and enablers and to increase uptake in Australia.