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Advance care planning (ACP) is the process of thinking about, talking about and planning for future health care and end-of-life care. It is about people identifying what matters to them and thinking about what the future may hold and what decisions they might want to be made, especially if they were unable to speak for themselves.

ACP sits alongside writing a will and appointing an enduring power of attorney as part of end of life planning.

Advance Care Planning can start at home with discussions with whānau and can start at any time and at any age. Health professionals can support ACP by helping people consider and discuss what the future may hold in terms of any health conditions and what treat and then discussions with health professionals such as GPs or practice nurses.

Advanced Care Planning has the following benefits

For patients

  • Some control and ‘voice’ about future care and treatment, even if there is a time when they cannot speak for themselves
  • Better understanding of their health now and what may happen in the future
  • Chance to focus on what is most important to them and live the life they choose
  • More peaceful deaths

For whānau

  • A gift from their loved one to know that decisions that are being made are what they wanted
  • Less stress, depression and anxiety after a loved one dies

For clinicians

  • An understanding of their patients’ values and preferences to help shape treatment and care now and in the future
  • Open and effective communication with patients

For the system

  • Reduces unwanted and futile treatment
  • Supports people to die in the place they choose.

Once you have your Advance Care Plan drawn up, it’s important to keep it up-to-date, and to amend it as necessary if your situation changes. Read more about planning for your future

Hear from patients about what Advance Care Planning has meant for them.

“Very simply, I’m after quality of life rather than quantity.Once I realised that, it influenced a lot of the decisions in there (the written advance care plan).I also realised I didn’t want to be too black & white, that I want the doctors to decide what’s best at the time.”(Consumer reflecting on documenting his ACP)
“Talking to my Dad about his wishes around end of life care made us feel peaceful, as if a burden was lifted off us. We did everything my dad wished for and look back and think ...his last days brought the whole family together”. (daughter of a gentleman who discussed his ACP with his family and community health team).
“Everybody has to go sometime…you have to make sure that your canoe is ready and that you’ve got your paddle on board, ‘cos you’ve got to have an ending to the story.” Keri Kaa Feb 2019
“We thought that ‘no resuscitation’ meant no treatment at all and that they were giving up on her (mother).Once it was explained to us … and that they probably couldn’t restart her heart if it stopped anyway, then we could accept that” Consumer at a community advance care planning (ACP) presentation
“You have confirmed for me that I’ve done all of the right things.I have end stage kidney disease and I declined dialysis.I did not want to spend the time I had left tripping about for treatment three times a week.I chose quality over quantity of life and I’m spending my time in ways that make me happy.It was a really hard decision to make at the time and I feel really affirmed after listening to this (presentation).” Consumer at a community recent advance care planning presentation (2018)
“No matter how hard it may be to get a loved one to talk about what they want, while they can, it is easy compared to the agony of having to make choices when you are not sure what that person truly wants.” Georgina Langdale in her blog about having to make decisions on behalf of her father www.archeus.co.nz/blogs/news/when-the-doctor-calls

Read more about advance care planning on:

For local information about advance care planning, you can also email advancecareplanning@ccdhb.org.nz.

Last updated 23 September 2019.