`I’d never want that to happen to me’

What would happen if you lost your ability to make choices about your medical care? This is the situation for thousands of Australians who can no longer make their own decisions due to a sudden medical event, like a severe stroke or other type of brain injury, or a progressive condition like Alzheimer’s’ Disease. `Events such as these mean that up to 50% of people spend the end of their life in a state in which they are unable to make their own choices about medical treatment. Decisions about treatment may then have to be made by someone who may not have a good understanding about the patient’s wishes. Families members may have different ideas about whether to proceed with a particular treatment’, stated Yarram and District Health Service’s Acute Care Coordinator Mary Garland.  `In a healthcare environment where people are often living longer with chronic conditions,  medical treatment is increasingly complex and relatives may be less involved in one another’s’ care, Advance Care Planning offers a way to increase a patient’s control and choice in future situations where a decision about treatment is required.’

An Advance Care Plan might include nominating in writing the person you would want to make decisions about medical care if you were not able to do this yourself (Medical Enduring Power of Attorney), and written statement or notes about your wishes. YDHS social worker Alison Payne noted: ` People vary very widely in their beliefs – some would want their families to consent to any treatment doctors are prepared to offer while others feel equally strongly that they wouldn’t want any treatment that didn’t give them a very high chance of good quality of life, as they see it. Although we know it can be difficult to talk about illness and medical treatment, usually people feel relieved once they have this discussion and most importantly, families then know what their loved one would want them to do if a doctor asked them to make a decision about medical treatment ‘.

People interested in finding out more about Advance Care Planning are encouraged to contact their local medical clinic or the YDHS social worker on 5182 0222.