Older people and substitute decision making legislation: limits to informed choice


The University of Queensland. Email: d.setterlund@social.uq.edu.au


Objective: To explore older people's knowledge and experience of the law relating to assisted and substitute decision making in Queensland.

Method: The sample (N=377) comprised older people and their families living in metropolitan Brisbane (n=242) and South West rural Queensland (n=29) and residents living in aged care facilities and retirement villages and their family carers in Brisbane (n=106). The data collection involved 48 focus groups and 29 individual interviews. A thematic analysis of the data sought to make links to a range of social variables used to draw the sample.

Results: In the majority of focus groups and individual interviews, older people had a limited or low understanding of the law relating to substitute decision making. Structural factors of lower income, cultural background, disability, rural location, nursing home residence and gender can limit ability to make informed choices and are likely to increase the risk of financial abuse.

Conclusion: There is a need to raise community awareness about the advantages and disadvantages of substitute decision making arrangements and to provide educative strategies to address commonly held misconceptions about the nature of enduring powers of attorney provisions.