Good palliative care aims to meet the needs of the individual at the end-of-life. A palliative approach helps with physical, emotional and spiritual comfort. It needs good communication between the resident, family and the staff.
When someone is admitted to a residential aged care facility (RACF), nurses spend time with the new resident and their family. As they collect information, the staff learn about the resident. They find out how the person wishes to be cared for and how he or she wishes to live their life at the RACF. The staff use this to develop a plan of care that reflects the resident's needs and wishes.
The term 'Family' is used in the broadest sense. It refers to any person who is an important member of the resident's support network.
Staff will ask the resident about the people who are important to him or her. They will ask for their names and contact details. They will identify who is to be the main contact. This is so staff know who to discuss care needs with, when the resident is not able to do so.
When a resident is approaching the end of their life, staff will review the resident's care needs and contact details for their family. It is important that contact details are correct. Staff will want to know if family wish to be called at any time. Some families only want to be called between certain hours. Having this detail can help prevent confusion, if the staff need to contact the family.
Staff may meet with family at different times during the resident’s stay including:
- a few weeks after admission
- from time to time during the residents stay at the RACF
- when a resident appears to be approaching the end-of-life, or
- at the request of the family.
A family conference is a more formal meeting. This is where health professionals and the family can discuss care arrangements. This allows everyone to share their concerns. They can identify common goals and resolve conflict.
There are tools available that families can use to help them prepare for any discussions and to help them make decisions.
If you are concerned about the care of a resident, ask to see the registered nurse. You may want to have a family conference. A registered nurse, clinical nurse, or manager will attend to this.
Site managers / Care managers / Directors of Nursing in Aged Care tend to be very busy. While they will always make time to see families, making an appointment for a mutually convenient time is always appreciated. It also allows the manager to prepare properly for the meeting, and to allocate sufficient time to the meeting.
Complaints about care
- If you are unhappy about your care or the care of your family member talk to the staff
- All Residential Aged Care Facilities are required to have a policy on complaints. They should let residents know the process for making complaints (Aged Care Act 1997).
- Straight forward complaints and issues can usually be dealt with by the registered nurses and staff providing care. However, the issue may not be answered satisfactorily, or it may happen again. If so, it is best to talk to a manager at the facility.
- If you are not pleased with the response to your complaint, there is another option. The Aged Care Complaints Commissioner investigates complaints about aged care. If you are not satisfied with the facility’s response to your complaint they will investigate. There is information on the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner website where you can make a complaint online or by telephoning 1800 550 552.
If you are unsure of your rights, or want someone to speak on your behalf, the National Aged Care Advocacy services can help. The myagedcare website has links to organisations in each state that provide advocacy services to older Australians including those in Aged Care. Tel 1800 700 600 or visit myagedcare.gov.au.