An Advance Health Directive (AHD) is an important part of planning for your future health care and medical treatment. An Advance Health Directive can also be known as an Advance Care Directive, Advance Personal Plan, Advance Health Care Direction or a Health Direction/Directive, depending on the state or territory that applies.
Having an AHD in place can give you peace of mind as you know that others who care about you will have a clear understanding of your needs and wishes, should you ever be unable to tell them yourself.
An AHD sets out your wishes for future health care should you suffer a serious accident or illness and become unable to communicate those wishes yourself. This could occur at any age and does not necessarily happen only in old age.
An AHD is not like a Will and only has effect while you are living. It does not include any wishes for financial or legal matters and can only include wishes about health, medical, lifestyle or personal matters.
Lifestyle and personal decisions involve a wide range of activities and may include things like:
- Where you live
- What you wear
- What you do on a daily basis
- Your personal hygiene, such as how often you take showers.
Anyone can make an AHD whilst they still have mental and physical capacity. This means that you:
- Are over 18 years of age
- Know what an AHD is
- Understand how an AHD works
- Know when an AHD will come into effect.
It's important that you understand the medical terms in an AHD. Some key words used in this document are explained below:
- Comfort care: is care that will keep you as comfortable as possible, focusing on providing pain management, rather than a cure.
- Health care: this may include any type of health or medical treatment, surgery, mental health treatment, dental care, emergency care, nursing care and other alternative health care treatments.
- Life sustaining treatment: treatment that keeps you alive but does not improve your health. For example, CPR.
- Personal matters: can be about a wide range of matters, such as your clothing, religion, home, pets or children.
- Palliative care: is care at the end of life that aims to provide comfort with pain management and support from family.
- Terminally ill: means a disease that cannot be cured or treated and recovery from the disease is not expected.
- Permanently unconscious: an incurable or irreversible condition from which the person is not expected to recover from a vegetative state.
If you have written in your AHD that you do not want to receive certain medical treatment then it's important to explain when these refusals will apply.
Your Doctors are legally bound by what you have said in your AHD. If you do not specify when these refusals will apply, then they will apply all of the time.
An AHD can be overridden by your Doctor if he or she thinks that you changed your mind before you updated your document or that you did not mean for it to apply to a particular circumstance.
You can make your Advance Health Directive in just 10 minutes by completing our interactive online form. All forms are state specific and legally binding. It doesn't take long to get peace of mind. Answer a few simple questions and instantly receive your completed AHD, ready to sign. You can even make it while you are at your Doctor's office so that they can explain any terms that you don't understand.
It's a good idea to make certified copies of your AHD. Store the original in a safe place. Give certified copies to your Doctors and other health care providers.
If you have appointed an Enduring Attorney or Guardian in your document, you should provide them with a certified copy too.
If you have an electronic health record with the government, you can upload a certified copy. You can also complete a wallet card that states you have made an ACD and where to find it.
Your wishes as set out in an Advance Health Directive are not final; you can change them at any time while you remain capable of doing so. It is wise to review your directive every two years or if your health changes significantly. This way your medical providers will know that they have an up-to-date version.
If you do want to make changes to your directive, you should destroy the current one and make a new one, rather than marking the original.
You may also totally revoke your directive at any time. This must be done in writing, but no specific form is required and the person witnessing your signature does not need to be a justice of the peace, commissioner for declarations, lawyer or notary public.
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This article contains information of a general nature only and is not specific to your circumstances. This is not legal advice and should not be relied upon without independent legal or financial advice.