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The views and opinions expressed in our blog series are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.
“Palliative care is everyone’s business”
This was the theme of Palliative Care Australia’s advocacy in 2013. While this message aimed primarily to promote understanding at the wider community level, it is important for all health care providers to recognise the role they play in palliative care. All health disciplines, in specialist and non-specialist roles, in acute, community and aged care settings, cross paths with people affected by life-limiting illnesses. To provide care reflecting the values and principles of palliative care, the health workforce needs to be appropriately prepared and updated through postgraduate learning, professional experience, and ongoing professional development.
A fundamental aspect of palliative care is that it is supposed to be “holistic care”. At an individual level, this emphasises the requirement to not only consider the many medical and practical aspects of a person’s care, but to also consider their emotional, social and spiritual needs.
At the level of policy and service development, this means being able to identify the many pieces of the puzzle that are required to support good end-of-life care for individuals, and to wisely fit these together so that the picture begins to make sense to everyone.
In South Australia, there has been steady progress in this regard, with the work of many individuals and organisations being the essential pieces that coming together to form a picture of a coherent end-of-life decision-making and care strategy which will better provide for the needs of people dying both in hospitals and in the community.
So, what are some of these “pieces”, and how do they fit together?
The care that people receive as they approach the end of their life really does matter. It matters to the person, it matters to the people who love them, and it is a reflection of our societal values. Everyone is affected by death during their lives and everyone dies; indeed, death is a universal health outcome. We need to do end-of-life care well.
Decision Assist, funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, recognises that GPs and aged care workers should be supported to provide quality end-of-life care to meet the needs of older Australians.
To help support GPs, ANZSPM, as a part of Decision Assist, is promoting a framework of care that is based on a palliative approach and suitable for people in the last year of life and can help guide clinicians to provide high quality end-of-life care focussing on a person’s preferences for care and proactive delivery of holistic comprehensive care.