Advance care planning

Advance care planning involves thinking and talking about what is important to you as you age, including your goals, values and preferences. If you wish, this can include creating an advance care plan as a way to record your wishes in terms of current and future medical care.

Advance care planning is:

Thinking about...

...what is important to you, what do you want as you approach the end of your life, what are your values and beliefs, what matters to you.

Talking with...

...the important people in your life and with your healthcare team about what matters to you and how you want to live the rest of your life.

Planning for... you can achieve what matters to you and sharing that plan so we can all work together to help you achieve what you want. 

(HQSC, NZ, 2018)

Why is advance care planning important?

60% of people say that making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is “extremely important”, however 56% have not communicated their end-of-life wishes.

Source: Survey of Californians by the California HealthCare Foundation (2012)

One conversation can make all the difference

“Advance care planning (ACP) is a process of discussion and shared planning for future health care. It is focused on the individual and involves both the person and the health care professionals responsible for their care. It may also involve the person’s family/whanau and/or carers if that is the person’s wish. The planning process assists the individual to identify their personal beliefs and values and incorporate them into plans for their future health care.” Ministry of Health 2011.

Ongoing process

Advance care planning is an ongoing process that assists you in preparing for a sudden unexpected illness, from which you expect to recover, as well as thinking and talking about what your wishes are for end of life care with family/whanau. 

Advance care planning is a voluntary process, the pace and content of the conversations is determined by you. An important part of advance care planning is making sure you have enough information in a way you can understand it, so that you can more effectively participate in medical decision making processes now and in the future.

Considering your own future health care 

An online module for everyone working in health care and any other interested people.


ACP Cooperative, NZ

An advance care plan

After a number of conversations about advance care planning, you may wish to write key decisions or thoughts down so everyone is clear about what you want in different situations. This can be very helpful as we can all face times when either something sudden happens or we become very unwell and may not be able to express this for yourself.

An advance care plan, is therefore, the talking about and writing down of wishes, preferences, values and goals relevant to all your current and future medical care. 

It should be written in the knowledge that it could be considered a legal document. Your advance care plan will be referred to in future if you are unable to speak for yourself. Advance care plans need to be regularly reviewed and updated as and when situations change. 

Having your wishes put down in writing can save families/whanau (and healthcare teams) a lot of worry and concern if and when they have to make a decision on your behalf.

Who is it for?

Advance care planning is for everyone. Some of us want to plan for the worst-case scenario, eg, a sudden health crisis, some of us choose to plan because we have a life-threatening illness or long-term condition and some of us choose not to plan at all.

Advance care planning is often seen as a gift to loved ones, the gift of knowing what we want. The process may result in you choosing to write an advance care plan and/or an advance directive and/or to appoint an enduring power of attorney.

What is involved?

The plan is usually a series of conversations over time with both your family/whanau and your healthcare team.

  • Encouraging your family/whanau and healthcare professionals to have the conversations that really matter. It's a journey of thinking, talking and planning.
  • Making sure you have time and opportunity to ask the questions you would like.
  • An opportunity to develop and express your preferences for end of life care based on:
    • your personal views, values and beliefs
    • a better understanding of your current and likely future health
    • treatment and care options available.

Learn more

Advance Care Planning HQSC, NZ
How do I start: 5-step ACP process for consumers HQSC, NZ
Letting Go - What should medicine do when it can't save your life? by Atul Gawande, The New Yorker, August 2, 2010
Age Concern wide range of resources including resources around Enduring Powers of Attorney
Hospice NZ Hospice NZ exists to lead the hospice movement to ensure that every New Zealander has access to quality palliative care.
Ministry of Health, NZ Guidelines for healthcare professionals


  1. Advance Care Planning HQSC, NZ
  2. What is advance care planning? HQSC, NZ
  3. How do I start: 5-step ACP process for consumers HQSC, NZ