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Australians are being challenged to think about their future medical care needs during National Advance Care Planning Week, which starts today.

More than 75 community and health sector organisations from across Australia have joined forces this week to promote awareness of a poorly understood public health issue. Together, they’re asking all Australian adults, young and old, to plan for a scenario where they’re unable to make their own medical decisions.

Important conversations

With more Australians living longer, the initiative aims to demystify and normalise conversations around death and dying.

Although research shows around a third of the population will be unable able to make their own end-of-life medical decisions, few people take the active steps required in advance to retain control of their future medical care.

Advance care planning helps people clarify their values and preferences, preparing themselves and their loved ones for a time when they can no longer communicate.

National Advance Care Planning Week.

Have a say while you have a voice

Dr Chris Moy, Vice-President of the AMA and ambassador for Advance Care Planning Australia (ACPA), said ‘Most of us expect to have a say in our medical treatment, however a sudden event, or gradual health decline may leave people with without a voice or a choice, if no plan is in place.

‘Less than 15% of Australians have an advance care directive. This means that millions of Australians are unaware that they have given up their ability to control their own destiny should they lose decision-making capacity,’ said Dr Moy.

‘This leaves their loved ones with the burden of making heart-breaking decisions blindly. No family should have to go through that,’ he said.

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Knowledge is power

National Advance Care Planning Week is an initiative of ACPA and funded by the Australian government.

People are encouraged to visit the website, which makes it easy for people to get started with advance care planning – from starting a conversation with family and attending events to accessing the relevant forms.

Linda Nolte, Program Director of ACPA, said ‘We want to empower people to take active control of their future care and ensure their preferences are known and respected. But we can’t do it alone.

‘We are grateful for the 75 organisations  – from the Northern Territory to Tasmania – that are bringing these important conversations to their local communities,’ she said.

National Advance Care Planning Week runs 22-26 March.