The importance of palliative care in end-of-life discussions
You can’t help but see that in Australia there’s an enormous amount of debate going on about end-of-life care options.
Particularly from discussion raised by the Victorian Upper House passing the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill in November 2017, we’ve seen how complicated and emotional this issue is.
As a leading provider of in-the-home palliative care, Silver Chain believes that part of this significant debate on our end-of-life decisions has to be the role that palliative care plays.
Palliative care is provided for individuals with a life-limiting illness or condition. High quality palliative care services bring together health services, home care, personal support and support for carers, but is always delivered in accordance with the preferences and circumstances of the patient.1
Silver Chain’s palliative care service is recognised nationally as a best practice model of community-based palliative care. Our focus is on increasing comfort and achieving the best quality of life possible, in the place, and with the people, of our clients’ choosing. We believe that, with the right resourcing, the choice to receive at-home palliative care could be available to everyone.
For the vast majority of people at the end of life, the provision of high quality palliative care can alleviate suffering and substantially improve quality of life. However, timely access to such services varies greatly across Australia.
Very few people get the type of palliative care they need or want – in fact, a Commonwealth Senate review of end-of-life care indicated that over 70% of Australians wish to die at home surrounded by those they love, and where they loved and nurtured them. However, the national average of those who do achieve this wish (according to the Grattan Institute) is just 14%.
Over the next 25 years the number of people who die each year in Australia will double. There needs to be a change to the system that allows for greater choice and greater comfort for people facing life-limiting illness. If this is provided well, then the concerns around the assisted dying debate can, and should, reduce. What we are talking about here is offering real choice (comprehensive palliative care) to all Australians, irrespective of geography or personal circumstances.
Everyone’s experience and needs are different, and while these conversations will continue to happen it’s important to remember that we’re talking about the wishes of terminally ill Australians, who deserve dignity and compassion as they face the end of their lives.
For Silver Chain, it’s clear that there are three areas of change needed:
There needs to be a major increase in the availability of community and home-based palliative care and support for people who have a terminal illness or are in the last years of their life.
As a community, we need to ensure that people have all the information they need to make a confident decision about their end-of-life care.
Individually, we all need to have more conversations with our families, carers and trusted health care professionals about what our wishes are, to create clear end-of-life plans.
References 1 Swerissen, H and Duckett, S., 2014, Dying Well. Grattan Institute