Advance Care Document, Advance Care Plan, Advance Care Directive, Health Directive, Living Will. Many of these are different names for the same thing. But what does each mean?

What is an Advance Care Plan?

An Advance Care Plan is a general overall term that includes any form of planning in advance, including all the above names. It is a document that outlines a person’s choices for medical care they do or do not want, in the event they can no longer speak for themselves. It is used in the event you cannot speak or decide or communicate for yourself.  This is why you need to nominate a Substitute Decision Maker ahead of time ( while you are mentally competent) as part of your Advance Care Plan and ensure they understand the contents and intent of your Plan. Your Substitute Decision Maker may be the same person as your Enduring Power of Attorney if you have one.

Your Advance Care P{lan will inform any decisions about medical care that your Substitute Decision Maker or Enduring Power of Attorney or Guardian make. So talk to them about it, and update them regularly when you change it. Make your values and wishes clearly known, both in writing and importantly in conversation to all peope who may be involved in or affected by the decisions about your care, in order to minimise stress, conflict and confusion for all. (Especially for you) Share your Touchstone Life Care plan not only with your Substitute Decision Maker(s) and Enduring Guardian (if you have appointed one), but also with

  • your medical practitioner (to place in your patient file)
  • Other family members
  • Hospital or residential aged care facility admissions staff, where relevant
  • My Health record  here

There are certain requirements governing these documents in Australia:

  • In different states in Australia the requirements for witnessing and signing your Advance Care Plan vary.
  • We suggest you use Touchstone Life Care’s questionnaire and background reading material to think about and indicate your values and wishes, then check with your doctor or lawyer and ask if there are other signing requirements or extra forms to add to it.  
  • Further information and documents about Advance Care Plans can be accessed from the web site of Advance Care Planning Australia.
  • If another family member or friend is concerned that your wishes in your Advance Care Plan are not being followed, they should contact a lawyer or the Trustee and Guardian office in your State/Territory.

What is Power of Attorney?

This is a legal document that appoints someone else to act on your behalf for financial and administrative affairs. It is for if you are sick, overseas or unable to look after your own affairs.

It stops having effect if you, the person who appointed someone else to manage your affairs, lose your mental capacity.

A Power of Attorney is invalid after death.

Enduring Power of Attorney

Similar to a Power of Attorney, this is a document that appoints someone else to act on your behalf, but unlike a Power of Attorney, it continues beyond loss of capacity.

So even if the person who signed loses their mental capacity, the Enduring Power of Attorney continues. It is used for financial and administrative affairs if you are sick, overseas or unable to look after your own affairs.

However you can appoint an Enduring Power of Attorney for Health Decisions. We recommend you include this person(s) as a Substitute Decision Maker(s) on your Advance Care Plan, so they know what you would want. 

Enduring Guardianship

An Enduring Guardian is a person appointed to act on your behalf in matters of medical treatment and quality of life decisions.

There is no directive from you to this person, or others, about your wishes unless you make an Advance Care Plan.

Where there is both an Advance Care Plan and an Enduring Guardianship, the wishes expressed in the Advance Care Plan override the opinions of the Enduring Guardian. 

Start thinking about your wishes and needs in our questionnaire here. There’s no need to complete it all in one go. You can change your mind anytime, as often as you wish.