The foundations of award-winning palliative care in residential aged care
An article written by Jane Pickering, Chief Executive, Eldercare
Earlier this year, the palliative care team at South Australian aged care provider Eldercare won the Innovation in Palliative Care Award at the National Palliative Care Awards in Sydney.
Palliative care is a core and growing aspect of services within residential aged care and Eldercare has actively pursued opportunities to build its clinical expertise and organisational capability in delivering specialist palliative and end-of-life care.
Eldercare is one of only two aged care providers in South Australia that employs a dedicated palliative care team, which offers faster and more accessible specialist support for staff, residents, and their families, leading to an improved resident experience during the palliative and end-of-life stages. Three of the nine qualified palliative care nurse practitioners in the state are part of this team, providing additional expertise and services.
The team’s purpose is to provide advice and support to residents who are receiving palliative and end-of-life care (and their families), mentor staff and model best practices in palliative and end-of-life care, and develop resources and education to support staff, with training modules created for specific purposes (e.g. managing grief and loss) and for specific role types (e.g. personal carers, nurses, clinical leadership).
Eldercare made strides in developing its palliative care program after receiving funding from the South Australian and Commonwealth Governments under the Comprehensive Palliative Care in Aged Care project. From November 2021 to December 2022, 23 personal carers were supported to receive their Certificate 3 in Individual Support (Aged Care) with a focus on palliative care, and a palliative care training program was developed and delivered to frontline staff. Palliative care training for carers and nursing staff is now delivered as part of Eldercare’s pre-employment, induction, and annual training programs, and traineeships have been incorporated into business as usual.
The palliative care team also received 536 resident referrals across the project’s seven Eldercare locations. Referrals trigger a process to ensure that advance care planning has been discussed with the resident and their loved ones, and preparations are made to ensure end-of-life care can be provided at any time.
Due to the success of the CPCAC project, Eldercare is now working to develop the palliative care capability of other aged care providers on behalf of SA Health.
Eldercare’s investment in palliative care practice has also enabled the ongoing achievement of higher than industry rates of advance care planning, with 93% of Eldercare residents having an Advance Care Plan in place (as of April 2023), versus 37.7% of aged care residents across Australia.
In the year leading up to April 2023, 93% of Eldercare residents died in a familiar environment, versus 85.9% of aged care residents across Australia. Dying in an acute hospital environment is often a traumatic experience for residents and their loved ones. Eldercare’s comprehensive palliative care service reduced the need for hospital transfers at end-of-life.
The work of our highly skilled and compassionate palliative care professionals, and the countless employees they have trained and mentored, have led to improved palliative care outcomes for our residents, and contribute to holistic, best practice care in a residential setting.