The landscape for end-of-life care continues to evolve as it keeps pace with changing community attitudes and expectations. The upcoming cohort of aged care recipients has lived their lives with greater freedom and personal control than any preceding generation. They rightly have expectations that their autonomy will prevail into their senior years.
Matters of personal choice and autonomy in aged care were identified and brought in to sharper focus with the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care, the new Aged Care Charter of Rights and Aged Care Quality Standards.
Yet despite people’s expectations of greater choice and control, 70% of older Australians are still without an Advance Care Directive (ACD), leaving them vulnerable and potentially without a voice in the medical treatment they receive as their health declines.
Advance care planning (ACP) gives people the best chance of living life on their terms until the end, by preparing the person and their families for a time when they are unable to make their own health care decisions.
Advance care planning benefits
- offers people the opportunity to discuss and determine their preferences for future medical treatment and appoint a substitute decision-maker
- gives aged care providers a roadmap to guide the medical treatment decisions of their clients
- helps ensure that time and resources are not wasted on unwanted treatment options
- reduces the emotional distress of families during stressful periods.
The role of aged care providers
The aged care workforce and providers have an important role to play in increasing access and uptake of ACP and enacting ACDs in their communities. However resources are stretched and there is often limited understanding of ACP. The sector requires ongoing education and support to ensure that ACP is well-coordinated, delivered respectfully and within legal frameworks.
Those working in aged care, often find supporting aged care clients and their family with advance care planning challenging. However it’s critical that everyone involved in the care of older Australians resists the urge to shy away from these tough but important conversations.
Supporting Australia’s aged care workforce to start conversations that matter
Advance Care Planning Australia offers education and support to the aged care sector through:
Since 2017, around 7,000 aged care workers and health professionals across Australia have signed up to Advance Care Planning Australia’s online learning. It offers access to free anywhere, anytime online training. The curriculum comprises up to 10 learning modules that cover starting advance care planning conversations, dealing with patients with dementia, as well as cultural and legal considerations.
Advance Care Planning Australia looks forward to our continued work in supporting Australia’s aged care sector and its workforce and ensuring that older Australians are empowered to make their own medical treatment decisions, regardless of what the future brings.
For more information visit: advancecareplanning.org.au
Online learning: learning.advancecareplanning.org.au
Advice: Call 1300 208 582, Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm (AEST)
Julia Todd, Deputy Program Director, Engagement and Education, Advance Care Planning Australia
For further evidence and practice points around advance care planning for older Australians visit the palliAGED Evidence Summary and Practice Points.