Support Australians who are Dying to Talk
Dying should be seen as a normal part of life, with grief and bereavement supported in the community and within workplaces. Death literacy across the community needs to be improved significantly so people are more comfortable talking openly about death and dying. Older Australians also need to be supported to understand what good palliative care means for them regardless of their prognosis.
Work done across the community to normalise discussion of death and dying, and grief and bereavement, will make care planning discussions more common and more accepted. It will also result in an understanding of palliative care and how palliative care contributes to health and healthy dying. This will, in turn, support the aged care workforce to be better able to facilitate advance care planning within aged care services.
Adapting aged care policy
Aged care policy is currently focussed on wellness and enablement. While this is very important, this focus must not shut down conversations and planning for a person’s inevitable death. Both palliative care, and wellness and enablement, share the common goal of maximising quality of life, and both should be able to exist equally within aged care.
Our health services are often so focussed on keeping people alive, that they can forget that everyone dies and this is not a failure on their part. Unrealistic expectations of modern medicine can also result in delayed referrals to palliative care services and militate against a healthy approach to death and dying.
Royal Commission recommendations
On 22 October 2020, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s Counsel Assisting presented 124 proposed recommendations to the Commissioners. PCA welcomes these recommendations to improve the aged care system, including the following recommendation relating to improved public awareness of aged care:
- Recommendation 11: Improved public awareness of aged care – this proposes funding and supporting education and information strategies to:
- improve public awareness of resources to assist people in planning for ageing and potential aged care needs;
- improve knowledge about aged care among professionals with frequent contact with older people; and
- encourage discussions about and consideration of aged care needs.
PCA supports this recommendation to improve public awareness of aged care and would like to emphasise any aged care public awareness campaigns should also seek to improve death literacy across the community and normalise discussions of death, dying, grief and compassion.
PCA aims to increase awareness and engage the community on palliative care, dying, grief and bereavement through activities such at National Palliative Care Week and the Dying to Talk initiative:
- National Palliative Care Week, which aims to broaden Australians’ understanding of palliative care and to highlight the benefits and scope of palliative care. More information on National Palliative Care Week 2020 can be found here.
- Dying to Talk aims to reach into the community to normalise early conversations about the end of life, rather than waiting until more time-critical or medical focused discussions need to occur. Visit our Dying to Talk website to learn more.