The advance care plan myths we need to leave behind

Apr 8, 2022 | Advance Care Planning

Advance care plans are one of the most essential yet misunderstood documents in Australia. A vital part of seeing your care wishes through should you lose the ability to advocate for yourself, there is a lot of myth and conjecture surrounding them.

Today, we’re tackling some of the advance care plan myths – check them out now!

Once you have a will, you’re set

One of the most enduring advance care plan myths is that once you sort out your estate, you’re all set. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, many Australians die with extra trauma, cost and greater family fractures due to a reliance on a will as the only necessity in care and end-of-life planning.

A will is different to an advance care plan. Wills come into their own after you die. Advance care plans protect you while you are still here, especially if you lose the ability to speak for yourself.

While a will deals with money, assets and other more legal and financially based decisions, advance care plans span your medical choices, your day-to-day needs, and can even reflect the granular details of what makes you the person you are.

Put simply, your advance care plan decides what you value the most and does it’s best to ensure it happens. That means it underlines what you need from a care provider, in a hospital situation, and also what you need to feel respected and cared for.

Advance care plans are just treatment plans

Another advance care plan myth is that this is your treatment plan. They are far more wide-ranging than that.

Advance care plans can help with making treatment decisions in a medical environment. But it also draws the line on what treatments you will and won’t accept. This is crucial, especially if you don’t believe that your life should be preserved at all costs. Including what you might personally view as a significant drop in quality of life.

Unlike a treatment plan, an advance care plan also considers the lines between dignity and risk. That is, what do you as a person define as a dignified way to live. As well as releasing a medical care professional from the legal constraints that will often mean they choose the most risk-adverse and less litigious path when it comes to making decisions about your treatment.

Another feature of an advance care plan is that it is a roadmap of you as a person. There is no possible way one treatment plan can outline every single decision that could be made if you become ill or injured.

Advance care plans focus on capturing your values so that these decisions become less stressful.  The “harder to determine which way you would go” moments in life are catered for by seeing you as a person who values certain things over another.

We’re all a tapestry of what matters to us that is unique. How we respond to a given situation is determined by our experience of the world, how we feel about medical interventions and treatments, where we sit in terms of quality versus quantity of life, spiritual beliefs, family relationships and dynamics, what we love and also what we can’t stand.

It’s this level of detail that advance care plans capture to ensure we get the treatment we deserve.

Advance care plans get people killed

There are a lot of damaging misconceptions about Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD), but the related advance care plan myths are potentially very harmful to people receiving appropriate care.

VAD deals with specific wishes of a person who wishes to end their life after all treatment options are exhausted. They are voluntary and only given to people who nominate themselves as a candidate for such measures. They also involve over seventy checks into the physical, emotional and mental fitness of a person opting to make use of VAD over a period of days, weeks and months.

Advance care plans and advance care directives designate and direct the care you want. They help you choose having a wine at night with your dinner over abstinence that might add an extra three days to your life.

But more than that, advance care plans are an exercise in living well and to the full.

When you engage in advance care planning, you are stating emphatically what you as a person will accept. You are defining what quality of life means to you. And you are articulating the parts of you that make you who you are through decision making. You are putting yourself in the driver’s seat based on your values. This is an exercise in empowerment and directing the life you want to lead, even if the changes that have happened to your body and mind have altered from the usual course.

VAD and advance care planning might drink at the same bar, but their orders and reasons for being there are very different.

An advance care plan is an advance care directive

We can understand where this advance care plan myth comes from. Directive and plan often sit in the same tree and share the fruit.

The simplest way to separate the two are to think of the values involved. And to view directive as a more legally binding piece of documentation. The two come together to create parts of a larger whole:

Advance care plan – The softer, more personalised care wishes that fall into your value set. It’s not necessarily legally binding, but it helps capture your individual beliefs, care choices, values and less tangible aspects of care in one spot. That way, the loved one discharging your care and/or making care decisions can match what you believe as a person and value as an individual with the choices available.

Advance care directive – with an advance care directive, you are directing the care you want. It’s like a living will that states your preferred outcomes and specific directions in a care environment. It also comes with the ability to nominate a specific person to make all your decisions for you. This is legally binding.

As you can see, the two documents compliment each other. But the advance care plan is like the starting point of a larger conversation towards ensuring your values reflect your choices going forward. An advance care directive is far more “if this happens, do this in response” that others need to follow.

Want to bust more advance care plan myths? Check out Advance Care Planning Australia or the End of Life Directions for Aged Care. Or contact ExSitu today to discuss what we can do for you.


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