For sensitive religious and cultural advance care planning

General Information

This section provides some language and communication tips to support advance care planning as expressed by religious and cultural leaders from a variety of traditions. Many of these leaders noted that clear communication skills are an important foundation for advance care planning.

Core attitudes that support advance care planning conversations are respect, sensitivity and awareness as it is possible that you encounter beliefs and values that are quite different to your own. Be aware of your own values and beliefs as this will assist you in acknowledging and respecting those differences.

Language and communication

Leaders suggest that health professionals try to find an interpreter who speaks the native and local language/dialect of the patient as certain languages vary widely geographically, and words might be understood differently. They recommend interpreters be briefed before being included in advance care planning conversations to ensure they are comfortable with the nuances of the conversation. Wherever possible, try to avoid medical jargon and use very plain, simple, easy to understand language to minimise the possibility of misunderstandings. Practice reflective listening to ensure you have understood what your patient has communicated, and also invite them to reflect back to you what they have heard and understood.

To find a qualified interpreter in your area: https://www.naati.com.au/online/

Glossary - Our definitions of terms used across this website

  Advance (Care) Directive A formal documentation of an advance care plan which may be recognised by common law or legislation. These may include statement of wishes for preferences (Living Will), refusal of treatment as well as a Substitute Decision Maker.
  Advance Care Planning (ACP) Conversations about future health and personal care, based on individuals' values and preferences which are made known in the event they are unable to communicate their own decisions. Integration of ACP is generally advised early on and ACP can be revisited and updated throughout a person's life.
  Culture A shared sense of meaning, and associated behavioural patterns, arising from a combination of an individual's and their parents' country and place of birth, year of arrival to Australia, ancestry, religion, language spoken, traditions, etc. A 'cultural group' may be people who identify through a common language, behavioural norms, worldview, history, and ancestry.
  End of life The international definition for 'end of life' is the last two years of life, while in the Northern Territory, it is the final days.
  Palliative Care The improvement of quality of life for patients and their families faced with life-threatening illness, through prevention and relief of suffering, by means of early identification, assessment and treatment of pain and other physical, psychosocial and spiritual issues.
  Religion A set of beliefs, practices and languages characterising the faith of a group. Generally based on belief in a deity.
  Religiosity Sometimes referred to as 'religiousness', the extent of belief in a religion. Measures of religiosity may include church attendance, belief in God or a higher power, prayer frequency, and professed importance of religion.
Substitute Decision Maker A person nominated to act on another person's behalf following the completion of an ACD. In some states also referred to as Enduring Power of Attorney or Person Responsible.

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