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Key Words Explained

Advance Care Directive: is a legal form for people aged over 18 years. It can record your wishes and instructions for your future health care, end of life, preferred living arrangements and other personal matters. It can also be used to appoint one or more adults to make these decisions for you. Your Advance Care Directive takes effect (can only be used) if you are unable to make your own decisions. To be legal, you must only use the official Advance Care Directive Form.

Health care: can include medical treatment, life-sustaining treatment, surgery, mental health treatment, medications, dental treatment, maternity care, emergency care, nursing care, podiatry, physiotherapy, optometry, psychological therapy, Aboriginal health care, occupational therapy, and other services provided by registered health practitioners such as traditional Chinese medicine.

Residential and accommodation decisions (called living arrangements in this guide): can include where you wish to live, whether to go into supported care, whether you prefer to have a view of the garden, live by the sea, live with others or on your own.

Personal decisions: can be about cultural or spiritual matters, your pets, holidays, employment, personal grooming, dress standards, care of children if you are in hospital temporarily, relationships that are important to you.

Decision making capacity:
You can make your own decision if you can:

  • understand information about the decision
  • understand and appreciate the risks and benefits of the choices 
  • remember the information for a short time
  • tell someone what the decision is, and why you have made the decision. 

If, in the future you are unable to do these four (4) things, it means you are unable to make the decision and someone else will need to make the decision for you.

Substitute Decision-Maker: is an adult you choose and appoint in your Advance Care Directive to make decisions about your future health care, end of life, living arrangements and other personal matters when you are unable to make these decisions for yourself, whether for a short time only, or permanently.

Person Responsible: is an adult able to make health care decisions for you if you do not have an Advance Care Directive and have not appointed a Substitute Decision-Maker in your Advance Care Directive. It will usually be someone who is close to you and is available and wants to make the decision. It could be several people in your family, or someone contacted by your health practitioner.

Life-sustaining treatment: is treatment that keeps you alive but doesn’t improve your health, such as your heart being restarted (CPR), life support with machines keeping you alive, renal dialysis, or food and fluid given to you by a tube.

Comfort care: is care that will keep you comfortable and manages your pain until you die, but will not cure your illness.

Palliative care: is care that aims to improve your quality of life, prevent suffering, manage your pain until you die, and support your family through the process and after your death.