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Advance Care Planning

Advance care planning allows people to document their beliefs, values and preferences for healthcare, in case a situation occurs where the person is unable to make decisions or communicate their wishes.

What is advance care planning?

There is evidence to show that people have better healthcare outcomes and experiences when they have had the opportunity to talk about their values, beliefs and preferences for care with a health professional.1

These conversations help families, carers and guardians make decisions if the person has a treatable, life-threatening condition but is unable to make a decision.2 Advance care planning is not just for older people, accidents and illnesses can happen to anyone.

You should encourage all adults to:

  • talk to their loved ones about what they want
  • decide who should make decisions on their behalf
  • make an advance care directive.

Advance care planning is different to end of life planning. It involves planning ahead in case a person cannot make or communicate decisions about their healthcare. This may happen at the end of their life, or in other situations such as an illness or injury. Unlike end of life planning, it includes planning for temporary loss of capacity.

Advance care directives

An advance care directive is a written or spoken record of someone’s advance care plan. If they become ill or injured and cannot make decisions or communicate their treatment and care preferences, the advance care directive must be followed.

An advance care directive does not need to be on a specific form or have witnesses to be legally enforceable. However, it is a good idea to use one of the forms available from NSW Health and have it witnessed and signed. This will guide the person through the process and reduce any doubt about their intentions.3

All adults should be encouraged to have an advance care directive, in case something happens. It provides their family with certainty about what the person wants, and gives them the confidence to make decisions about the person’s healthcare.

Enduring guardians

An enduring guardian is someone who is appointed to make decisions for someone else, if the person does not have the capacity to make decisions about personal matters such as where they will live and the kind of healthcare and social services they may need.

Anyone can appoint an enduring guardian at any time by completing a form, contacting a solicitor or visiting the NSW Trustee and Guardian website. However, the guardian only gains power to make decisions once the person is unable to make decisions for themselves.


  1. NSW Ministry of Health. What is advance care planning? North Sydney, NSW: NSW Health; 2017.
  2. Silveira MJ, Kim SYH, Langa KM. Advance Directives and Outcomes of Surrogate Decision Making before Death. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2010;362:1211-18.
  3. NSW Ministry of Health. Making an advance care directive. North Sydney, NSW: NSW Health; 2017.