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Tough decisions

Alzheimer’s Australia (AA) has called on the Federal Government to set up a $1 million governmental task force on advanced planning for people with dementia in its 2008/09 budget submission.

The task force’s main objectives would be to develop an education campaign informing people of the benefits of advanced planning and to push for national consistency in advanced care planning legislation and documentation.

According to the submisssion, advanced decision making provisions are currently complex and underutilized by consumers.

“All too often the wishes of the person with dementia are not appropriately followed,” it said.

About 50 per cent of referrals to the guardianship tribunal relate to people with dementia who do not have enduring powers.

Research obtained by AA suggests a level of inconsistency in the understanding of advanced care planning among health practitioners and lawyers.

It recommends training for professionals who may need to advise consumers on the legal medical and social implications of care directives and enduring powers of attorney.

Aged Care Queensland’s Residential Care Manager, Pam Bridges, said that when consumers fail to plan ahead, aged care providers are often left in a difficult position.

“In aged care services across the spectrum, there is an increase in dementia and with that comes a dilemma around people with reduced cognition and their decision making capability,” she said.

She recommends that care providers consider the legality of the decisions they make.

“What you are looking for is family and friends who have got the authority to be substitute decision-makers,” said Ms Bridges.

“It’s good if you have that but you often find other families and friends without that authority making demands.

“What we’re saying to our members is, ‘you need to think about who is making the decisions on behalf of your residents and clients and on what basis’.”

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