Advance Care Planning Australia has compiled their top 7 tips to help you feel better prepared

Making medical treatment decisions for others is hard. It typically involves a sudden medical event, with someone you love becoming critically ill and unable to communicate. It’s important that as carers, we understand our responsibilities and what’s expected of us if we’re called upon to make medical decisions for others.

National Advance Care Planning Week, 21 – 27 March, is the perfect time to have a heart to heart with the person you care for.

Be prepared. You may find yourself dealing with a sudden medical event if you are a substitute decision-maker (SDM). In fact, everyone who has a husband, wife or parent, is automatically a substitute decision-maker.

Advance Care Planning Australia has compiled their top 7 tips to help you feel better prepared for the role.

1. Start Talking

All too frequently, people have expectations that loved ones can make decisions on their behalf without discussion. If someone has appointed you as a substitute decision-maker without the benefit of clarifying their preferences, be sure to raise it with them.

2. Ask if you’re right for the role

If you’re not great at making decisions in pressured, emotional situations or feel uneasy about discussing dying, be sure to let your loved one know so they can choose another substitute decision-maker.

3. Get their preferences in writing

Just like making a will, an advance care directive (ACD) can help clarify a person’s preferences, and reduce confusion and family conflict.
Encourage your loved one to write an ACD while they are still fit and healthy. Be aware that legally binding ACDs can only be completed by people with decision-making capacity, so if dementia is a factor, early planning is critical.  If your loved one has already lost decision-making capacity, try to involve them in the treatment decisions by talking about their values and preferences or reflecting on past conversations.

4. Go to medical appointments

It’s easier to make medical decisions for others if you understand their current health status and how it impacts their quality of life. Ask questions at appointments about their illness and treatment options, and how their illness is likely to progress in future.

5. Learn your CPRs and DNRs

From cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) instructions to dialysis, tube feeding and artificial breathing, these interventions come with significant burdens that may not be compatible with how your loved one wants to live. Advance Care Planning Australia offers useful information on life-prolonging treatments and how to weigh the pros and cons.

6. Access is everything

Too often, advance care planning directives and other advance care planning documents can’t be found quickly in an emergency. Encourage your loved one to upload their advance care planning documents to My Health Record . This will ensure the document can be accessed when it’s needed most.

7. Ask for help

As a carer and substitute decision-maker, it’s natural to have questions – ranging from how to complete forms and understand the legal aspects – to your ethical concerns. For free, personalised advice, you or your loved one can call the National Advance Care Planning Support Service on 1300 208 582 from 9am – 5pm (AEST) Monday to Friday.


For more information,

and access a free email starter pack. View ACPA’s new Questions that Matter Most video. You can also find face to face and online awareness raising events Australia-wide during National Advance Care Planning Week.

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