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Taking a broad-brush look at palliative care


Australian experts have contributed to a new book that takes a broad-brush view of palliative care as a science, clinical practice and art.

HammondCare Clinical Consultant Professor Rod MacLeod is one of two international editors in chief for the Textbook of Palliative Care, which will be launched at the European Association of Palliative Care World Congress in Berlin on Friday.

“We have endeavoured to produce a textbook that showcases the multi and interdisciplinarity of palliative care and is unique in bringing together authors from all fields of palliative care – physical, psychological, social, and existential or spiritual,” Prof MacLeod says.

A/Professor Melanie Lovell.

The Textbook covers pain management and other key areas like advance care planning, as well as creative art and food across 101 Chapters.

Associate Professor Melanie Lovell, a Senior Staff Specialist at HammondCare’s Greenwich Hospital and a leading cancer pain management specialist, is a section editor for Symptom Assessment and Management.

She says because the book is online, it can be updated regularly to ensure the most up-to-date evidence is available.

“It brings together all the disciplines who work in palliative care,” she told Community Care Review.

“We looked at all the symptoms that you might deal with in serious illness and got the best experts from all of those areas to contribute.”

The book, aimed at health professionals, is a valuable resource for the aged care sector, Dr Lovell says, because it addresses all the illnesses that affect people as they age, including dementia, cancer, heart failure, respiratory illness.

Australians putting off planning

The launch of the book, coinciding with Palliative Care Week, comes as a survey by Palliative Care Australia showed that while most Australians know they should be planning for the end of their lives, they are putting it off.

According to an online survey of 1,000 people, 79 per cent of Australians think it’s important to talk about what they want for the end of their lives, but only one in four have talked to their family about it and only six per cent have raised it with their doctor.

The most common reasons respondents gave for not wanting to talk about it included not being sick, feeling they were too young, feeling uncomfortable talking about their death and not wanting to upset loved ones.

PCA deputy chair Judy Hollingworth says the results show a disconnect between what people think about end of life planning, and what they are doing about it.

“One in four respondents had a family member or someone close to them die in the last 12 months. So, despite it being something that closely affects a quarter of our population every year, it’s still something that we struggle to talk about,” she says.

Dr Lovell says talking about death is something society as a whole needs to get better at, and the book will help health professionals have important discussions about end of life decisions.

However she believes progress is being made.

“I think overall the conversation has been improving over the last few years where the literacy and understanding of palliative care, and therefore the timing of referrals has been earlier and earlier so more people across the different disciplines understand the vital role that palliative care can play in maintaining quality of life for as long as possible.”

The Textbook of Palliative Care can be downloaded here.

PCA has developed a resource to help people start the discussion about end of life.

Professor MacLeod is also an author of the Palliative Care Handbook, published by HammondCare.

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