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Nation asked about “What Matters Most” in end of life

Australians of all ages and stages of life are being asked to reflect on “What Matters Most” from 20-26 May as part of National Palliative Care Week 2018.

Not enough Australians are talking about their dying wishes and end of life care according to Palliative Care Australia (Source: Shutterstock)
Not enough Australians are talking about their dying wishes and end of life care according to Palliative Care Australia (Source: Shutterstock)

An initiative of Palliative Care Australia, this annual awareness week aims to draw some focus on the importance of end of life planning and conversations, and to make the conversations easier and more comfortable.

Chief Executive Officer of Palliative Care Australia, Liz Callaghan, says the need for improvement in the area of end of life planning and conversations has been once again highlighted by this year’s survey of 2,100 Australians that shows while eight in ten think it’s important to talk to their family about their care wishes if they were to become seriously ill, only one in four have actually had the conversation.

“There’s a disconnect between what people think they should do to prepare for the end of life, and what actions they take,” she says.

“This survey indicates many Australians are still not comfortable talking to their loved ones and health professionals about their wishes if they were to become seriously unwell, or that the topic is not being raised with them by health professionals.”

While the survey notes a gap in discussions between families and health professionals, Ms Callaghan says it did also note that 14 percent of Australians have had to make healthcare decisions on behalf of a family member who was terminally ill or required end of life care, with majority of this group having previously had discussions with that individual about their wishes, some having access to documentation outlining their wishes, and a smaller number nominating them to make these decision.

“This shows that when people do have the conversation with their loved one, it makes it easier on them when they need to make decisions about their care,” Ms Callaghan says.

“By having the conversation with loved ones and health professionals, people can ensure their treatment and care best aligns with their values and preferences regarding both the type and place of care and place of death."

Palliative Care providers Home Instead Senior Care Australia have come forward following the release of the Palliative Care Australia survey to also encourage more dialogue about death and dying.

"We know that dying is not an easy subject for many people to discuss with their loved ones," Martin Warner, Co-Founder of Home Instead Senior Care Australia, says.

"[And] as a provider of supportive palliative care at home, we have seen first-hand the difference planning ahead can make for everyone involved at their end of life and encourage you to take the time this National Palliative Care Week to talk about dying and what matters most."

Ms Callaghan says there are plenty of resources available to help the conversations and encourages everyone to get talking.

“We encourage everyone to discuss their end of life wishes with their loved ones and health care team using the Dying to Talk Resources [because] knowing what is important to you will reduce their burden at a difficult time and ensure you get the care you desire," she says.

“So don’t put the conversation off, because talking about dying won’t kill you."

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