As someone who spends much of my time creating palliative care resources and reviewing evidence in this field, the lack of understanding of palliative care and its role and value continues to surprise me, as does our general reluctance as a society to openly discuss death and dying. The reality of being human is that we are mortal and that one day we will die. This is an inevitable part of life and only the timing and circumstances are uncertain.
On any day in Australia, there are people coming to the end of their life, who are dying, or who are caring for someone who is dying or grieving for someone who has died. What they know and how they prepare for this reality can influence their experiences at the end of life. What we as members of the community know and do will also shape their experience and that of their family and friends. And what health professionals and aged care staff know can directly impact the quality of care experienced by individuals and their families at the end of life regardless of setting and background. If awareness is the first step, then finding trustworthy information to build knowledge and capacity is the next. CareSearch brings together palliative care evidence and resources to make it easier for everyone – health professionals, aged care staff, patients and their families, and the public - to find relevant palliative care information when it is needed.
In developing our CareSearch content and communications we have always drawn on the core palliative care values that encompass the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of each person and their family. Values that are also reflected in the principles and goals of the National Palliative Care Strategy developed to provide guidance for all Australians whether they have palliative care needs or are responding to the needs of others. Six guiding principles underpin the strategy and provide it with focus and purpose.
- Principle 1: Palliative care is person centred care
- Principle 2: Death is recognised as a part of life
- Principle 3: Carers are valued and receive the support and information they need
- Principle 4: Care is accessible
- Principle 5: Everyone has a role to play in palliative care
- Principle 6: Care is high-quality and evidence-based
These principles remind us that palliative care is more than the healthcare provided, it is how palliative care intersects with the person, their family and the community as well as expectations of quality, connection and availability. If we are to own these principles, we all have a role to play in building knowledge, supporting conversations and planning, and making palliative care accessible and inclusive.
To support this aspiration, CareSearch is running a Part of Life (161kb pdf) campaign to encourage all Australians to learn, care, and plan for death and dying. The campaign highlights six things we should all know about palliative care. The campaign can help people understand what palliative care is and why it matters. Importantly, it provides easy access to information about the principles and to the right resources for everyone’s different role. The Dying2Learn online course is also part of the campaign encouraging people to join a national conversation about death and dying.
We look forward to sharing the principles and our CareSearch resources with the community and with health professionals. We invite you to learn, to plan and to care and also to share this campaign with your colleagues, families and community.
Professor Jennifer Tieman, CareSearch Director, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Flinders University