Getting your affairs in order

An Advance Health Directive (AHD) is a legal document that you create – while you are well with your Medical Professionals.  It enables you to make decisions about the treatment you would want – or not want – to receive if you ever became sick or injured and were incapable of communicating your wishes. In such circumstances, your AHD would effectively become your voice.

Your Advanced Health Directive covers medical, surgical and dental treatments, including palliative care and life-sustaining measures. It also can cover your wishes in relation to resuscitation and organ donation.

An AHD comes into effect only if you were unable to make a reasonable judgement or communicate about a treatment decision. And, only at the time that the treatment was required.

When to make an Advance Health Directive

The best time to make an advance health directive is now, before any urgent health condition arises. However, it’s particularly important to make one if:

  • you’re about to be admitted to hospital
  • your medical condition is likely to affect your ability to make decisions
  • you have a chronic medical condition that could cause serious complications

You can discuss this with your doctor or alternatively call Advance Care Planning Australia – 1300 208 582

Do Not Resuscitate order  (DNR)

A DNR order is a Medical Order to withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques.  All families with aging parents should talk about what to do in the event of a serious or terminal illness.  Such an order informs the health care team that in the event of a cardiac arrest, cardiopulmonary resuscitation will not be conducted.  Measures will then be provided to comfort the dying process.  The DNR guidelines in Australia stress that the order be issued in consultation with the patient, their family, agent or guardian (if applicable) and senior medical staff.

Power of Attorney  (PoA)

A power of attorney allows you to appoint people you trust to make decisions about both your ‘personal (including health) matters’ and/or ‘financial matters’ if you are unable to. Financial matters relate to decisions about your financial or property affairs, including decisions about paying expenses, making investments, selling property (including your home) or carrying on a business.

What is the difference between a PoA and an Enduring Power of Attorney EPoA?

A key difference between a PoA and an EPoA has to do with when they are in effect.

A PoA is only in effect when you are mentally capable; – it ends if you become incapable.  To be mentally capable you must understand the nature and effect of the PoA at the time you are making it.

An EPoA can be in effect when you are mentally capable AND most important it continues to be in effect if you become mentally incapable.

An AHD is arranged between you and your medical professionals.  The DNR Order, PoA and EPoA are all serious documents that can significantly affect your legal rights.  It is recommended that you seek independent legal advice before signing these documents.