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5.5 Plan for when you can’t make decisions

Organising enduring power of attorney, enduring guardianship and an advance care plan ensures your wishes will be undertaken in the future

Enduring Power of Attorney

Enduring power of attorney is a legal document that says whom you trust to make financial and estate decision on your behalf should you lose capacity. Choose someone you trust who knows you and your values to be your Enduring Power of Attorney.

Check that they agree to act as your attorney before appointing them. You can appoint more than one person (e.g. both your children), and you can specify whether you only appoint them severally, i.e. that any one of them can make the decision, or jointly, i.e. both, if more than two appointed all of them, or at least two them need to sign on your behalf). Make sure that other people involved in supporting you know whom you’ve appointed as enduring power(s) of attorney.

You can specify the type of decision that the enduring power of attorney covers. In some states Enduring Power of Attorney (financial) only gives the person authority to make financial decisions (e.g. bank accounts, property, investments). In other states, an Enduring Power of Attorney (medical) gives the person authority to make healthcare and accommodation decisions on your behalf.

Some states, such as New South Wales, have another form, called the Enduring Guardianship, by which you appoint one or more trusted persons to make decisions about services, accommodation and health choices.

The laws around power of attorney and guardianship are different for each state and territory. Find out more from the Australian Government website.

Advance care planning

An Advance Care directive is a written document where you specify what health treatments you want and do not want when you’re not able to make those decisions. This is a legal document in some states or territories, but not others.

Talk to your GP, nurse, other health workers and family about future situations where you might have to make health decisions (e.g. if you are no longer able to feed yourself, if you stop breathing). You can also talk to your health professional about the pros and cons of those options and then make a decision based on those discussions.

It is important to think about arranging enduring power of attorney and guardianship now. If your dementia is too advanced then you may lack capacity, i.e. not be legally capable, of giving instructions.

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Write your will, enduring guardianship, and advance care directive.