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Understanding the illness or injury

No one plans or chooses to become unwell. Despite your best efforts, your health can become compromised to an extent that it significantly affects your wellbeing, finances and quality of life. Having the right support and taking appropriate actions early can minimise the adverse effects on your life and the lives of those close to you.

A serious illness or injury is any condition or event that negatively affects your quality of life and your daily functions for an extended period. Depending on the injury or illness, you may fully recover, have life-limiting effects or be told that death is a likely outcome.

Common examples of serious illnesses and injuries include:

  • A new diagnosis of cancer.
  • A stroke or heart attack.
  • Multiple, displaced fractures.
  • Loss of a limb.

It is helpful to gather and group the information you need by focusing on three key areas - your diagnosis, your treatment options and your prognosis or likely outcome.


Your treatment options include all the different ways of helping you heal, recover from or better manage your illness or injury. Treatment options may be singular or include a mix of methods. If your condition is severe or urgent, you may require immediate treatment. 

Practical example

Anna, a 47 year old teacher with two daughters is diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer during a routine screening visit. Her surgeon offers her two treatment options: a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. She recognises that she needs further information to help make an informed decision that is right for her.

A prognosis is an informed opinion about the likely course or outcome following a particular action or combination of actions. Your treating specialist should be able to provide a prognosis based on clinical evidence, medical experience and professional judgement. 

Practical example

George is an 87-year-old widower who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (a form of dementia). The prognosis is that his memory and cognitive functioning will progressively deteriorate over months to years. He decides to proactively appoint a power of attorney (POA).

Things you should know

This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

© Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.