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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.
The number of Australians over the age of 65 is rising, and during the next three decades, the proportion of the population aged over 85 will more than double. This demographic change is driving significant growth in demand for aged care. The availability of home care packages has significantly expanded in the last decade to allow people to be cared for in their homes including those that require palliative care. A shift in the complexity of people moving into residential aged care has also occurred; people are older, frailer and have more complex care needs. Across the spectrum of aged care services there is a need and expectation for people to have their end-of-life needs met.
The pattern of disease, dying and death has changed dramatically in Australia over the last century. In Australia alone almost 160,000 people die every year. Of these at least 120,000 are expected deaths, meaning that access to palliative care could be of great benefit to both the individuals and their families. But ensuring access to quality palliative care for all who need it is not without its challenges. This is why a group of researchers sought funding from National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for the Centre of Research Excellence in End-of-Life Care (CRE-ELC).
I started out my career as an enrolled nurse and after a few short term positions spent 21 years at Ashford Hospital. While I was there and aged about 33, my brother died after a short diagnosis of cancer at age 35 – way too young and with much still to give. He spent a few weeks in Daw House hospice – my introduction to this facility and palliative care. I was so inspired with the way care could be delivered and the compassion with which staff went about their work that I decided then and there that this was the way I wished to work going forward. I learnt that, at that time, there was no hope of employment at Daw House for an enrolled nurse, so decided that I would study to become a registered nurse to realise my desire to work in this field.
Since 2004 I have had the privilege of being the clinical pharmacist at Daw House, a 15-bed hospice based at Repat Hospital, which is in the original homestead built prior to the hospital’s 1942 inception. The first patient came to Daw House in 1988 and the last left in 2017, transferred to the new Laurel Hospice at Flinders Medical Centre.
During the time that I have been with Southern Adelaide Palliative Service, the nature of palliative care has changed enormously.