Dementia FAQ

How does an Advance Care Plan help?
It helps you to think about and talk to your family and doctor about your future medical care if you become seriously ill. A written guide gives family and doctors information that clarifies what you would have wanted in this situation. It helps families make hard decisions with the knowledge of what you have already told them.

How do I choose someone to make decisions for me?
This person should be someone you trust, who will listen carefully to your values and wishes for future care, and will follow those wishes. They should also be someone who will be comfortable making decisions in difficult situations.

Who can make decisions for me if I can’t?
In NSW, there is a hierarchy that determines the person who is responsible for you (Guardianship Act 1987). A person responsible is not necessarily the patient’s next of kin. If either you or your person responsible is not comfortable with the responsibility of being your medical decision maker, then you can appoint an Enduring Guardian. The Office of the Public Guardian booklet Enduring Guardianship in New South Wales: Your Way to Plan Ahead explains this process.

Do I need to see a lawyer to complete an Advance Care Plan?
No. The law does not require you to have a lawyer to complete your Advance Care Plan or Directive. If you appoint an Enduring Guardian, this process does require a legal officer to witness your signature on the appointment document. It may be of benefit to you to have your GP/ Specialist Doctor review and witness your Advance Care Plan or Advance Care Directive so they can answer any questions you have about the benefits or burdens of medical treatment.

When is an Advance Care Plan or Advance Care Directive used?
It will only be used if you are unable to make decisions or communicate on your own behalf, when it has been deemed that you no longer have capacity to make your own decisions.

What is capacity?
The ability to make your own decisions is called ‘capacity’. When you have capacity you can make your own decisions about things that happen in your life. Generally when a person has capacity to make a decision they can; • Understand the facts and choices involved • Weigh up the consequences • Communicate the decision • What happens in an emergency? In an emergency, life sustaining measures may be started. Following discussions with your decision maker/s and family, treatment can be stopped if it is clear that it is not what you would have wanted.

Can my Advance Care Plan be changed or revoked?
Yes. You can change your Plan or Directive at any time. If you change or revoke your Advance Care Plan or Directive, you need to inform your person responsible or enduring guardian that you have done so. If you have distributed copies of your Advance Care Plan or Directive to others, make sure that you let them know, and give them the up-to-date copy.

What is the difference between a ‘Will’ and a ‘Living Will’ or ‘Advance Care Directive’?
A ‘Living Will or ‘Advance Care Directive’ is only about your health care. It only comes into effect while you are still alive but unable to communicate. A ‘Will’ relates to your estate and property. It only comes into effect after your death.

Is my Advance Care Plan legal?
NSW currently has no legislation on Advance Care Directives or refusal of medical treatment. However under common law, any medical treatment can be refused by a competent adult at the time or in advance. Any written document about treatment preferences is strongly persuasive, both for medical practitioners and substitute decision makers. Such a document (an advance care directive) has the potential for legal effect if it is specific, current, and written by a competent person without undue influence from others. (Respecting Patient Choices – NSW)

How is Advance Care planning different from Euthanasia?
There are very significant differences between advance care planning and euthanasia. Advance care planning is the process of discussing and choosing future health care and medical treatment options. The process of individuals making decisions about their own medical treatment is legally supported in Australia. Euthanasia is the practice of actively terminating life to hasten death.