Issues in aging

October 2010

FocusIssues in aging

End of life care

The importance of advance care planning

Volume 39, No.10, October 2010 Pages 734-737

Melissa Bloomer

Heather Tan

Susan Lee


Communication about end of life care may involve difficult conversations for patients, family members and health professionals. However, a lack of understanding of a person’s wishes about their future care may result in a loss of dignity for the person, and additional distress for their family members and health professionals and burden to the healthcare system.


This article discusses the barriers to advance care planning and provides some guidance for the general practitioner in undertaking advance care planning with patients and their families. Tips for initiating end of life discussions with patients and families utilising the ‘PREPARED’ acronym, and ensuring appropriate care delivery are included.


Involving patients and their family members in advance care planning may be challenging and time consuming for GPs. However, there are a number of resources to support this activity in relation to training, communication support and Medicare item funding.

Issues surrounding end of life (EOL) decision making, continue to be topical and widely debated. Many people do not wish to think or talk about their death or dying until it is too late. This can have serious repercussions on a number of fronts. Resources may be utilised to provide patients with treatments they do not want, distress may be experienced by family members and considerable stress placed on staff, as well as creating difficulties in areas such as organ donation. With organ donation rates in Australia being one of the lowest in the world, this latter point needs also to be considered. Lack of knowledge and poor communication between patients, family members and health professionals may contribute to family trauma.1

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