Choice and control over life and death

One organisation is particularly chuffed at the PC’s warm reception of their submissions.

Above: Palliative Care Australia Chief Executive Officer, Yvonne Luxford, at Parliament House for the launch of the Productivity Commission’s aged care report, Caring for Older Australians.

By Stephen Easton

The Productivity Commission has taken up the palliative care cause, recommending that the aged care system “should aim to be consumer-directed, allowing older Australians to have choice and control over their lives and to die well”.

Behind those three simple words – “to die well” – is a much greater emphasis placed on palliative care in the final version of the PC’s report, Caring for Older Australians, than was present in its first draft and Palliative Care Australia (PCA) is nothing short of “delighted”, according to a statement released on 8 August.

The PC’s recommendations, if adopted by government, would see residential or community aged care providers receive specific funding to provide pallitiave care when required by their clients.

PCA chief executive, Yvonne Luxford, said the PC had included a lot more on the specialist discipline than they did in January’s draft, and she was particularly pleased that “one of the things they’ve said is that palliative care should be the core business of aged care”.

“I think that’s a really important statement for them to make, and acknowledges just how important palliative care is in aged care, whether delivered in a residential aged care facility or in the community,” Ms Luxford said.

“If you look at our consensus statement we released a month ago, it’s amazing the similarities in what we’ve called for and what the PC is recommending; it’s fantastic to have that level of concurrence.”

“[…] I think this level of recognition is really important, but obviously this is just a set of recommendations. While it’s a great acknowledgement of the need, what we need now is implementation and we’re really looking forward to the government making some firm commitments in the 2012 budget. We have to start sooner rather than later.”

Ms Luxford said that aged care providers had a role to play too, in making palliative care a fundamental part of aged care, by ensuring that all staff are well educated in a holistic approach to palliative care, and promoting the use of advance care directives to clients and their families.

“One of the problems at the moment is that people aren’t receiving adequate training, either in palliative care or in a palliative approach to care,” she said. “That means they’re not providing the best pain and symptom management they could – both about pain and symptom management for the resident, and also about caring exclusively for the resident‘s family – having a dying family member is difficult, and that needs to be recognised as well.

“One of things that the PC also strongly recommends is the use of advance care planning. Aged care providers could immediately start looking at rolling out advance care planning within their facilities, but this is an area that even the PC admits all health professionals need a lot more training around.”

Palliative Care Australia has consistently lobbied both government and the aged care industry on the platform that “all Australians have a right to equitable access to palliative care, when and where it’s needed”, and their CEO believes that now, the PC has “pretty much said the same thing”.

Tags: advance-care-directive, caring-for-older-australians, palliative care, palliative-care-australia, productivity-commission,

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