Planning ahead

Planning ahead means preparing for end-of-life by making important health decisions before losing the ability to make those decisions in the future [16412]. There are a number of important things that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may want to consider when planning ahead for end-of-life including legal, financial and health-related decisions [44594]. By planning ahead, a person can communicate their wishes to family, their doctor or health worker before they lose the capacity to make their own decisions [16412][44594][32866]. Planning ahead can also support family members to feel more confident and comfortable to make informed decisions for their loved one, and potentially reduce disagreements between family members [33065][26925]. One of the first steps to planning ahead is advanced care yarning, which means talking to a doctor, an Aboriginal Health Worker or family about future medical treatment and attitudes, beliefs and values surrounding death [44594]. Advance care yarning can help identify a person’s preferences for when they approach end-of-life, such as returning to Country [43533].

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can plan ahead through the preparation of four key documents: a will, power of attorney and enduring guardianship forms, and an advance care plan [16412]. By creating a will, a person can determine what will happen to their personal belongings (property, land and money) when they die [25691]. A will may include details of traditional knowledge and contain information for funeral arrangements, such as how and where a person would like to be buried [44594][25691]. A power of attorney is a signed document which permits an allocated person to make financial decisions for someone who is unable to [16412][25691]. An enduring guardian is someone who can make decisions for a person who has lost the capacity to do so themselves, such as where they live and the healthcare and other services they receive [16412]. An advance care plan outlines the beliefs, values and medical wishes of a person’s future health care [35799]. An advance care plan differs from an advance care directive; although both terms are commonly used when discussing advance care planning, an advance care directive is a legally binding document that includes the treatment preferences for the end-of-life care of someone aged over 18 years [35548]. It is also important to remember that legislation can differ between the states and territories [47082][41830].

Sensitive communication between health care professionals and patients is an essential component of planning ahead [26925]. Discussing end-of-life care can be difficult and it is important to understand that decisions may be resolved over time [35799].


Key resources



Carried Lightly by Brian Robinson

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