For the past twenty-four years, Palliative Care Australia has organised and supported National Palliative Care Week, which this year will run from May 19-25 with the theme ‘What matters most?’
As Australia’s population ages and grows and the number of people receiving aged care services increases, the need to recognise, support and appropriately fund good palliative care provision in aged care will become increasingly important. Many people receiving aged care services are living with one or more life-limiting illnesses, such as dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or heart disease.
While approximately 80 per cent of people aged 65 years and older and who die in Australia used aged care services in the 12 months before their death, relatively few have accessed specialist palliative care.
Projects like ELDAC (End of Life Directions for Aged Care), of which PCA is a consortium member, recognise and support the need for high-quality palliative care and advance care planning in aged care. In addition to a website (www.eldac.com.au), Helpline (1800 870 155) and five evidence-based toolkits, ELDAC also recognises the need to bring people together and discuss issues in a policy and system change context through targeted roundtables.
Two of the roundtables held to date have brought together representatives of the aged care and palliative care sectors to discuss identification and funding of palliative care needs. This resulted in a set of Guiding Principles released in December 2018, to be used to shape the needs identification, funding and delivery of palliative care within residential and community-based aged care in Australia.
What we are aiming for is equity of access, person and family centred care, safety and quality, and consistency and continuity of care – which are the core elements of these Principles. Quality palliative care occurs when strong networks exist between specialist palliative care providers and ‘generalist’ palliative care providers – which includes GPs and those working within aged care at all levels. This is why ELDAC also has an emphasis on support to build or enhance local and/or regional linkages between aged care, specialist palliative care, primary care and other local service providers and networks through Sector Engagement activities.
Timely access to high quality palliative care is a human right, as declared by the World Health Assembly in 2014. PCA remains committed to working towards the future of quality palliative care for all Australians who need it, when they need it, and where they need it.
Rohan Greenland, CEO of Palliative Care Australia (PCA)