You only die once campaign starts

Updated 4 March, 2022.

We’ve just had a wonderful chat with the team from ELDAC about end of life planning.

They’ve asked us to remind readers to sign up to their ELDAC newsletter, which we urge you to do – (as long as you sign up to our Good Grief! newsletter at the same time!)

This can help you with end of life planning, so badly needed right now – even today in 2022.

Our chat was prompted by this article, which we published when Palliative Care West Australia launched its campaign “You only die once”, in 2019, urging people to prepare an advance care directive.

‘You Only Die Once’ is a great video, which you can still watch. Like ELDAC, Palliative Care West Australia also included a fabulous set of end of life resources to help you with end of life planning.

There are several different approaches to advance care directives and a learned lawyer on a panel I sat on recently reminded the audience that once you register it with a lawyer it is a legally binding document. This means, if you say ‘not for resuscitation’ if you have a particular illness and then change your mind some years later, your out-of-date advance care directive might not say what you want it to say – it might give permission to stop resuscitation when now, 10 years later, you want another two years, even if this is with a very low quality of life.

Another problem, almost the opposite, recently pointed out by a gerontologist, is when the advance care directive is updated every couple of weeks – or even days – often at the urging of family, and no one can keep up. So the document creates more confusion rather than more clarity with medical carers as it keeps being re-written.

We have to remember that advance care directives are a relatively new way for our culture to manage end of life, so we are having teething issues. But the more we do them and the more we think about what we want, the more the concept will develop.

Some argue we don’t need a document, just a conversation with those we love. But I would say, that’s a huge beginning. The mother and daughter in Palliative Care WA’s promotion never talked about what the older woman wanted. This was not about medical care but whether her ex-husband should be allowed at her bedside – one of the social aspects of your situation at dying that you can address.

The good thing about having a conversation, is that you need to clarify your thoughts. Most of us find taking a few notes effective for this. Your notes don’t have to be long. Talk, conversation, notes. All are words, shared words. All are helpful.

And this is the right time to post this clip when Studio 10’s Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Joe Hildebrand interviewed me.

Kerri-Anne reveals non-acceptance over John’s end of life.

Kerri-Anne revealed that she didn’t expect John to die – even though she was warned it would soon happen.

In this very poignant interview, recorded in May, 2019, Kerri-Anne explains candidly that she never accepted or expected that her beloved John was just about to die. She asks how we should tackle the advance care directive, something we don’t want to think about before it’s needed.

For a start, there is never a right time. No matter when, it always feels like the wrong time.

So the simple answer is just to start one and talk about it with those you love. Tell yourself as you sit down to look at the relevant websites that you will only consider it for half an hour today. Set the timer on your phone and then wrap up when it rings, with the promise that you’ll sit down at it again another day soon. But if you find yourself settled in and engrossed in the process, keep going.


For more about the End of life directions in aged care, go to ELDAC  at:

To grab yourself a copy of A Good Death by Margaret Rice head here.

To register to be part of a conversation on 11 steps you can take to have a better death, at Newcastle Station, go to:

For more about Palliative Care Western Australia’s ‘You only die once’ campaign, go to:

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