A new study commissioned by the federal government has found that males aged over 65 are less likely than their female peers to plan for end-of-life eventualities.
Advance Care Planning Australia led the study, which reviewed health records of over 4,000 older people (aged over 65) in hospitals, GP clinics, and aged care facilities across Australia.
The national study found that women were more likely than men to have an advanced care directive (ACDs), leaving a significant group of men whose future care will depend on chance or the decision-making of others.
“While ACP is by no means mandatory, we’re concerned for older people who expect to remain in control of their medical decisions as they age,” program director Linda Nolte said.
“If choice and control is important to you, advance care planning should be on your radar.”
The study also found that legally-binding ACDs only comprised 14% of the total advanced care documents drafted by senior citizens. About 30% of all older people had some kind of advance care plan outlining their preferences, which could be used to guide care arrangements but are not legally binding.
If you accept the proposition that an important part of healthy ageing is making informed healthcare choices, Ms Nolte said, it is crucial to ensure older people have an ACD which is coherent, properly dated, signed and witnessed.
“We urge people to take active steps to control their future care and create a legally-binding ACD, while they still have decision-making capacity. It means you’re more likely to get the care you want and avoid treatment you don’t want,” she said.
“It also relieves loved ones of the burden of making life-and-death decisions by guesswork.”
Ms Nolte stressed that having a compliant ACD in place was the only way to trust an older person’s wishes would be met. This was especially important to bear in mind with dementia being the leading cause of death for Australians aged 85 and over.
“It may be the difference between whether your doctor follows your directive or not,” Ms Nolte said.