The Residential Aged Care Facility (RACF) becomes a resident’s home. They will settle in and make friends with other residents and staff. For many residents, it is the place where they wish to die when their time comes. Residents and families often ask if this will be possible. They may worry that the resident will have to move to another facility or to a hospice or hospital.
High care facilities (nursing homes) will be able to provide for the palliative care needs of their residents. Most "ageing in place” low care facilities (hostels) will do as well. High care facilities have registered and enrolled nurses to provide skilled nursing care at all times.
Some low care facilities may not have registered nurses at all times. They will have a nurse on call and may have nurses from other services come to provide specialised care.
Palliative care aims to ensure the best quality of life for a resident when death is inevitable. This could be by controlling physical problems such as pain. It can also help with emotional, spiritual and social needs.
Palliative care is not giving up. It is about doing all that should be done, and can be done, to provide care and comfort to a dying person and their loved ones.
Staff in aged care can ask specialist palliative care teams for advice and equipment. This can help them to better manage troubling symptoms. Sometimes a short stay in hospital is needed. This may be for symptom control or to confirm a diagnosis. It may also be to check if the resident’s condition can be reversed.
Some low care facilities, especially very small hostels, may have few resources. They may not be able to provide complex care or palliative care over a long time. If so, staff will talk to you about what can be done and what is in the resident’s best interests. If necessary, they will try to find an alternative care service that is acceptable.
When a resident requires palliative care, the GP and the nurses will talk to the resident and family. They will look at any care needs. This is to make sure that the resident’s wishes are respected. It is also to make sure that symptoms like pain are well managed. A resident may have previously been admitted to a hospice. If so, the palliative care team from the hospice may continue to see them.
If you are concerned about the care your relative is receiving, ask to speak to the Registered Nurse. You can also make an appointment with the Manager/Director of Nursing. Many people find it helpful to make a list of the concerns that they wish to discuss and to bring the list to the meeting.
Pages within this section provide information on understanding and managing your emotions and what happens near the end.