Ten questions help consumers compare how residential aged care services provide palliative care

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Ten questions help consumers compare how residential aged care services provide palliative care

People looking at residential aged care options are being encouraged to ask services whether they provide a palliative approach to care and have links with specialist palliative care services.

Palliative Care Australia (PCA) is supporting this advice with the promotion of 10 questions to ask about palliative care in residential aged care.

The questions were featured this week to mark National Palliative Care Week, following a PCA survey which showed that an overwhelming majority of Australians (80%) think that aged care services should provide palliative care to their clients.

“Eighty six per cent of people surveyed also thought it is important that aged care services be clear about what palliative care they are able to provide,” said PCA CEO Liz Callaghan.

“Our message this National Palliative Care Week is that palliative care can be provided to people receiving aged care services, which can help manage their symptoms to improve their quality of life.”

The 10 questions, which can be accessed here, cover details which reflect that good palliative care extends beyond physical needs. They include:

  • “What support will there be for my loved ones when I’m close to dying?” and
  • “What arrangements are in place for my spiritual and cultural needs?”.

The questions were also designed to ascertain residential aged care services’ capacity to provide palliative care:

  • “What palliative care training do staff receive?”
  • “How will staff recognise when I’m close to dying and what processes are in place for this?” and
  • “How many staff are present on evening and night duty?”.

The facility’s potential to ensure residents are as comfortable as possible in the final stages of life can be explored with:

  • “Will I be able to have specialist palliative care if I need it”,
  • “Will I get the medicines I need if things change suddenly, and how long will it take”,
  • “How many staff are present on evening and night duty?” and
  • “If I need equipment to help with my comfort or problems, will the facility provide it?”.

PCA adapted the 10 questions from a more in-depth resource produced by the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, which can be accessed here.

This year, the theme for National Palliative Care Week is “We care. Your care matters. Palliative care can make a difference”.

“However, we know that not all Australians are aware of what palliative care can provide,” said PCA president Dr Jane Fischer at the event’s launch at Parliament House.

“Palliative care is a team-based approach. It is often in collaboration with others. It is very holistic. It focuses not just on the physical symptoms but the social, the spiritual [and] the emotional issues.

“It is about maximising quality of life and ensuring that people live well and that they die in their place of choice.

“Importantly, it is also about supporting families and carers, and ensuring that they receive bereavement support.”

Dr Fischer said more than 350,000 people were receiving aged care services, either within the community or in residential aged care services, and this figure was set to increase.