National Advance Care Planning Week 2024

When is the best time to discuss aged care with a loved one?

Aging and aged care are difficult topics for many families, and it’s very common for people to avoid thinking about and discussing where they plan to live as they begin to need more help and care.

But by avoiding a conversation about how to plan for care and housing as we age, we place pressure on our loved ones. I’ve seen many families experience conflict when they are forced to make urgent decisions they are not prepared for.

When an individual enters cognitive decline, it can become extremely difficult for them to communicate their wishes. They may begin to experience memory loss, declining attention span and sometimes even the ability to reason. And this is one of the main reasons I suggest getting your loved ones on the same page as you about your aged care plan early.

So, how can we better plan for our own aged care?

An Advance Care Plan is a formal recording of your personal and health care wishes. It can be a very important tool for ensuring that decisions about moving into aged care are driven by wants, not urgent needs.

It is about identifying who you would want to speak on your behalf if you could no longer communicate your preferences for care and what you would want them to say.

Ideally, an Advance Care Plan is developed with important decision-makers in your immediate family and inner circle or by you and provided to this inner circle so you are all on the same page.

When is the best time to create an Advance Care Plan? Depending on your own circumstances, if you are between 50 and 70 it might be a good time to consider developing an Advance Care Plan and sharing it with your loved ones or someone you assign with your Enduring Power of Guardianship.
It may be confronting to consider cognitive and physical decline when you are in good health. But that is, in fact, the best time to think about and document how you would want to be cared for at various stages of decline.

There are many online resources that outline what needs to be included in your care plan. Your state government health department is a good place to search. For example, it should include your references for at-home or residential aged care and how you would fund your choice.

By involving the whole family and ensuring they understand your health and personal preferences, you can empower yourself and ensure your wishes for the future are discussed and understood.

When the Advance Care Plan is in place, your family members can have the comfort and peace of mind to know that future decisions will align with what you really want, rather than what they guess you might want.

So, if you or a loved one is over 50, I encourage you to contact your family members and start the conversation about future healthcare planning.

By Clare Grieveson, Chief Executive Officer, Southern Cross Care WA

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