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Consensus on principles for palliative and end-of-life care in residential aged care

Pat Sparrow from Aged & Community Services Australia, Dr Jane Fischer, Andrew Allsop and Liz Callaghan from Palliative Care Australia and Suzanne Greenwood from Catholic Health Australia at the launch of the guiding principles.

New guiding principles on the delivery of palliative and end-of-life care services in residential aged care have been agreed by six influential peak bodies.

The principles reflect the need to recognise when an aged-care resident is approaching the end of life, in order to ensure their physical, emotional and spiritual needs are assessed and met.

They represent a shared commitment to ensuring that people who are approaching the end of their lives in residential aged care services have the best death possible and are able to live life to the fullest with dignity and comfort.

The principles were developed collaboratively by Palliative Care Australia, COTA Australia, Alzheimer’s Australia, Aged & Community Services Australia, Leading Aged Services Australia and Catholic Health Australia. They draw on the National Consensus Statement: Essential Elements for Safe and High-Quality End-Of-Life Care, developed by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.

The principles document was released today to mark National Palliative Care Week, which this year focusses on aged care and has the theme ‘You matter, your care matters. Palliative care can make a difference’.

Aged & Community Services Australia CEO, Pat Sparrow, launched the principles at Parliament House in Canberra, earlier this week.

She said about two-thirds of deaths in Australia are people aged 75 years and older. Of those people, 75% had used aged care services in the 12 months before they died.

“So palliative care is absolutely core business for aged care providers,” Ms Sparrow said.

She said only one in 25 aged care residents had a need for palliative care indicated in care or funding appraisals; a proportion that was considered low within the industry and highlighted the importance of adequate residential aged care funding.

The document, ‘Principles for Palliative and End-of-Life Care in Residential Aged Care’ provides details to support each of the following eight principles:

  1. Consumers physical and mental needs at the end of life are assessed and recognised
  2. Consumers, families and carers are involved in end-of-life planning and decision making
  3. Consumers receive equitable and timely access to appropriate end-of-life care within aged care facilities
  4. End-of-life care is holistic, integrated and delivered by appropriately trained and skilled staff
  5. The end-of-life care needs of consumers with dementia or cognitive impairment are understood and met within residential aged care
  6. Consumers, families and carers are treated with dignity and respect
  7. Consumers have their spiritual, cultural and psychosocial needs respected and fulfilled
  8. Families, carers, staff and residents are supported in bereavement

COTA Australia CEO, Ian Yates, said palliative care is one of the important services delivered by the aged care industry and “vital to protecting the quality of life of older Australians as their lives draw to an end”.

“Each and every Australian deserves access to the highest quality palliative and end-of-life care, whether this be delivered in a residential aged care facility or in their home,” Mr Yates said.

“While death and dying is an extremely personal matter there is still a substantial amount of work that needs to be done to ensure that the process is properly and equitably supported by the availability of palliative care in all forms of aged care.”

The principles document says that ensuring that high-quality palliative and end-of-life care services are available in aged care facilities and people’s own homes, will enable more older Australians to have a good death, better support their families and carers during the dying and bereavement processes and facilitate the better allocation of scarce health resources.


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