Planning for End of Life
Preparing for the end of life before it happens makes our last moments with loved ones more precious and less stressful. Discussing and planning our wishes come in the forms of Advance Care Planning and/or an Enduring Power of Attorney. Both documents help finalise our wishes. The information below has been provided to help you understand the differences between an Advance Care Plan and an Enduring Power of Attorney.
Death is an uncomfortable subject. Why do I need to talk about it?
Talking about death is never easy. It can be awkward and difficult talking to loved ones about the end of life, although it is just as important as planning for a new life. It helps loved ones understand your wishes when the end of life comes.
Why do I need to plan for my end of life?
Planning for the end of life helps family members, loved ones and carers better understand your wishes. The website dyingtoknowday.org gives several reasons why planning helps. Planning:
- Maps our preferences for treatment and care at the end of life, and lifts the weight of responsibility from your loved ones. Making life and death decisions is incredibly difficult for family members during an emotional crisis.
- Creates fitting farewells. Planning a funeral well before death gives a personal touch to a memorable event.
- Makes long-lasting memories. Sharing thoughts, lessons, stories and recollections leaves lasting treasured memories of you for the people you love.
- Diminishes regret. Discussions allow us to say and do what matters, with the people we love, before it’s too late.
- Avoids financial and legal complications. Dying without a will creates dilemmas and often divides grieving families.
- Offers peace of mind. Discussing your wishes with the people you love will likely make them feel honoured and respected.
- Allows for legacy. A handwritten letter, a favourite plant, the smell of your perfume, a gift or memento, a song or a poem, a bequest to a cause – these personal gifts keeps your memory alive in the hearts and minds of the people who matter.
How and when do I plan?
There are several ways you can plan your end of life wishes. The two most common are to create an Enduring Power of Attorney and/or an Advance Care Plan.
It is always best to create your Enduring Power of Attorney and/or Advance Care Plan when you are in good health, or as long as you retain your full mental capacity. It is important to know a person cannot appoint an Enduring Power of Attorney using the below forms when their decision-making capacity is impaired. In that instance, it is best to seek advice from the ACT Public Trustee and Guardian.
Who can help me plan?
Book an appointment to talk to your GP or Nurse, who can provide information about planning. Have a discussion with your family members when you have gathered information.
The following websites provide information on end of life planning for NSW and ACT residents:
What’s the difference between an Enduring Power of Attorney and an Advance Care Plan?
The ACT Public Trustee and Guardian describes an Enduring Power of Attorney as ‘a legal document that appoints the attorney to act on behalf of another (the principal) in relation to financial, property, personal care and/or health care matters. It is not revoked by the principal’s impaired decision-making capacity – it endures throughout their incapacity and is generally recognised in other states and territories.’.
Essentially, an Enduring Power of Attorney is used to legally appoint a substitute decision-maker when you are so unwell you can’t make decisions for yourself.
Palliative Care Australia explains that an Advance Care Plan relates solely to your wishes regarding medical treatments and procedures:‘if you were very sick, it may fall to your family or close friends to make decision about your health care. That can be a very stressful time where family members or loved ones may not agree with approaches to your care. If they have a document where you talk about the type of care that you would want, this can help them make decisions on your behalf.’.
It is used when you are no longer able to communicate your preferences, and can be used by your enduring power of attorney, family members, carers and loved ones to better understand your wishes. It helps promote autonomy and dignity, and gives you the opportunity to record your decision about medical treatment in times ahead.
In NSW, an Advance Care Plan is also referred to as an Advance Care Directive.
Can an Enduring Power of Attorney be used in another state or territory?
Each state and territory has different laws in regards to an Enduring Power of Attorney. It is best if you discuss your individual requirements with your healthcare provider, to see if the Enduring Power of Attorney complies with what is needed for your individual circumstances.
The best source of information for your state or territory can be found at Advance Care Planning Australia.
Who can serve as a witness for an Enduring Power of Attorney?
An Enduring Power of Attorney generally requires two witnesses authorised to sign a statutory declaration. Both witnesses must be present when you sign your Enduring Power of Attorney in the ACT. A list of authorised persons can be found on the Attorney-General’s website. Authorised persons include medical practitioners and registered nurses.
Where can I find electronic copies of an Enduring Power of Attorney or Advance Care Plans?
Your GP or Nurse can print off the required forms for you during your next visit, or you can download them here:
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
In addition, you may find the following worksheets helpful in your end of life planning: