tell my doctor

How will the doctors know I have an Advance Care Directive?

Once you have written your Advance Care Directive (“ACD”) and it has been signed and witnessed correctly, it is important that your Substitute Decision-Makers (those you have chosen to make decisions on your behalf, usually a family member or close friend), others close to you and your doctor or other health care professionals you see regularly, know you have one, what it includes and where to find it, especially in an emergency. No one can follow a directive if they don’t know it exists!

If you are admitted to hospital for any reason, you or your Substitute Decision-Maker should inform the staff on arrival that you have an Advance Care Directive.

Should I make copies of my ACD?

Once you have done your ACD, you should have multiple copies made to give to those people listed above. You don’t necessarily have to give a copy to everyone, but you will need to make sure your Substitute Decision-Makers and your main doctor have a copy.

It’s also wise to take a copy with you if you travel or move into an aged care facility. You will need to make sure you know where all the copies are because if you change your ACD, you will need to replace all of the copies. You will also need to make sure the original document is kept in a safe place where you and others can find it easily.

An Advance Care Directive can also be used for forward planning of healthcare. Your doctor or other healthcare professionals you see regularly can include your wishes in your overall healthcare plan should your health deteriorate. If your Substitute Decision-Makers and healthcare professionals are aware of the ACD, they can help accommodate your wishes to make sure decisions made are as you would wish.

What if I change my Advance Care Directive?

You can change your Advance Care Directive as often as you like, as long as you still have decision-making capacity.Decision-making capacity means that you are able to understand the information given to you, the choices available and the consequences of those decisions. It means you are able to retain the information or communicate the decision in some way.

It’s a good idea to review your ACD regularly and update it when your wishes or Substitute Decision-Makers change. It should be reviewed if there is a change in your health, personal or living situation.

If you change your Advance Care Directive, you should make sure you let everyone know, including any doctors who are aware of your previous ACD, and replace all of the copies with the new Advance Care Directive.

In order to change your Advance Care Directive, you will need to complete a new form and start the process again. You cannot simply alter a previous copy once it has been finalised as this will make the document invalid.

When will doctors and medical providers use my Advance Care Directive?

Although your Advance Care Directive is a valid document, as soon as it has been signed and witnessed correctly, it can only be used when you are alive and when you do not have decision-making capacity to make decisions for yourself. Decision making capacity means that you are able to understand the information given to you, the choices available, and the consequences of those decisions. It means you are able to retain the information or communicate the decision in some way.

Doctors and health care professionals will only look at your Advance Care Directive if you are unable to make or communicate decisions about your healthcare and treatment. Before acting on any instructions that your ACD may contain about your treatment or care, doctors will assess if it is valid depending on the situation.

For example, if you were admitted to hospital because you had concussion after falling and hitting your head and were not able to communicate your wishes, you would be expected to get better and therefore doctors may assess that your ACD would not apply to that situation.

However, if you had suffered a major stroke and were unconscious and not able to communicate your wishes and you were not expected to improve, at least in the short term, the doctors may consider that your Advance Care Directive would then apply.

What happens if I have an ACD but doctors do not have a copy of it?

In an emergency, doctors will take into account your preferences in your ACD, to assist them in making medical decisions.

In the absence of a copy of your ACD, doctors will likely start life-prolonging measures until they can hold discussions with the Substitute Decision-Makers or family regarding your preferences or until they have access to the ACD.

Want to know more about updating your Advance Care Directive? You can get in touch directly with today’s blog writer, Probate Clerk, Nikki Harder.

You can complete an Advance Care Directive online with acdAssist

acdAssist is a guided question and answer process, that you can complete at your own speed and in your own words. It is designed to identify your wishes and needs to those who you choose to make decisions for your care when you are no longer able to make those decisions yourself. These are then included in an Advance Care Directive for you to sign.

Visit acdAssist to find out more or to start your Advance Care Directive.

This blog has been authorised by Partner, PeterMyhill.

You can complete an Advance Care Directive online with acdAssist

acdAssist is a guided question and answer process, that you can complete at your own speed and in your own words. It is designed to identify your wishes and needs to those who you choose to make decisions for your care when you are no longer able to make those decisions yourself. These are then included in an Advance Care Directive for you to sign.

Visit acdAssist to find out more or to start your Advance Care Directive.