Importance of Advance Care Directives for Australian Expats – A situation that is becoming increasingly more common is of Australians taking care of their older family members in ill health, and this includes Australian Expats living abroad.
As the baby boomer generation (aged 55 to 74) enter the retirement stage, representing 21.5% of the Australian population, we expect this situation will remain prevalent.
In fact, data released from the 2021 Census in Australia showed that more than half of baby boomers (50.4%) have a long-term health condition.
With this in mind, it’s important for Australian Expats to speak to their older loved ones early about advance care planning and consider the use of Advance Care Directives (ACD).
This will help ensure family members are cared for in line with their wishes in the event they lose capacity to make decisions, and Australian Expats have a clear plan to follow to assist in making those decisions.
What is an Advance Care Directive?
At some point in the future, a person may be unable to make decisions about health care (even temporarily), due to an accident, dementia, a stroke or a mental illness.
An Advance Care Directive (ACD) is a formal document that allows a person to give directions to someone else about their future health care, make their wishes known, and give health professionals direction about the treatment they want.
It will only take effect if they do not have capacity to make decisions for themselves or to communicate their preferences.
Why is an Advance Care Directive Important?
An Advance Care Directive acts as a crucial roadmap to help Australians navigate a health care problem experienced by their loved ones in the future.
Particularly in the context of an Australian Expat, it’s going to be helpful to have a clear plan to follow in advance given you are overseas, as the ability to return to Australia in a timely manner may sometimes be challenging.
An advance care directive will help everyone know what their loved ones would want should they lose the capacity to tell you.
What should Australian Expats be Doing?
Australian Expats should speak to their loved ones early about considering an advance care directive.
These conversations can sometimes be difficult, although are very important because it will allow you to know what their wishes are should they experience a period of ill health.
It may be the case another sibling or relative is chosen as the person to act on their behalf, but this will still provide clarity as to what would happen.
The person chosen should be a trusted person who will listen to the values and preferences for future care and who will be comfortable making decisions in difficult situations. A second person can also be chosen as an alternate decision-maker.
They will step in if the first decision-maker is unable to make decisions on your behalf.
How to make an Advance Care Directive?
Advance care directives differ between states and territories in Australia, with each generally having their own specific form, and sometimes using different terminology for the directive.
For example, a directive is referred to as an Advance Health Directive (AHD) in the state of Queensland.
The term, Living Will, is also used interchangeable with most State naming conventions.
A lawyer is not required to complete a valid directive; however, should be given copy of the directive once completed.
They can be established by downloading the specific form from the state government website and following the instructions, and the completed copy being certified by the relevant people.
Once completed, certified copies should be given to attorneys, doctors or other health providers.
Close family and friends should also be notified the person has made an advance health directive and where to find the document.
Further information and resources on on Advance Care Directives and can be found on the Government website here: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/palliative-care/planning-your-palliative-care/advance-care-directive