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Raising awareness about your right to palliative care

This week, 22 - 28 May 2022, is National Palliative Care Week, which aims to put a spotlight on the importance of palliative care services and how they can benefit people with life-limiting illnesses.

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The 27th annual National Palliative Care Week is this week, aiming to raise awareness about palliative care. [Source: iStock]

Palliative Care Australia (PCA), peak body for palliative care, says the theme of the 27th National Palliative Care Week campaign is 'It's your right'.

The theme is designed to educate the population that being able to access high-quality palliative care is a right for all Australians, whenever they need these services.

National Palliative Care Week also raises awareness about what palliative care provides, as the services you can receive through palliative care are so much more than just 'end of life care'.

Chief Executive Officer of PCA, Camilla Rowland, explains that National Palliative Care Week helps increase the understanding around palliative care.

"The theme acknowledges the World Health Organisation's (WHOs) position that palliative care must be recognised as a universal right. The theme also builds on efforts here in Australia to ensure equitable access to palliative care for all, when and where they need it," says Ms Rowland.

"Because everyone with a life-limiting illness has the right to live as well as possible, for as long as possible."

PCA actively campaigned for better palliative care in aged care prior to the Federal Election, including demanding that the incoming Government invest in the sector to improve older people's access to palliative care in aged care.

A recent survey from PCA, the National Palliative Care Community Survey Snapshot, found a funding shortfall for palliative care of around $427.5 million per year.

Additionally, PCA wants to see an increase in aged care worker training in palliative care so nursing home residents can be treated with dignity and respect during their illness and towards the end of their life.

"It is clear that Australians want their older loved ones to have the respect, dignity and care they deserve at the end of their lives that palliative care can offer,” says Ms Rowland.

"We know there are already too many people forced to miss out on palliative care in our aged care facilities, which will only worsen as our older population grows.

"It’s critical that we have the appropriate funding in place, together with training and support systems for staff. Failing to do so will mean that more and more Australians face painful and traumatic end-of-life experiences."

Over National Palliative Care Week, events have been held around the country to raise awareness for palliative care, as well as commend the people who work hard for those in the later stages of life.

Visit the National Palliative Care Week website to get more information about the theme or events for the rest of the week. Or visit the Aged Care Guide for informative articles about palliative care.

Palliative care can be a rewarding job

This National Palliative Care Week, in home care provider, Home Instead, is giving a platform to palliative care workers who are passionate about the people they support and provide care to.

Donna Watling has been working in residential aged care for 15 years and has experienced a variety of challenges providing palliative care in this setting.

While working at Home Instead, Ms Watling has been able to spend a lot of time with her clients, hearing their stories and attending all the funerals of her palliative care clients.

Palliative care can be a tough job as it requires being with a client right up until they pass away.

Ms Watling says being able to attend funerals helps her manage the loss of clients that she has spent time building a relationship with over the years, months or days of their journey.

"It’s important to me to attend funerals, I get some peace of mind. It’s an opportunity to say goodbye and to have that closure, to know that I have done my job and done it well," explains Ms Watling.

Judy Norman worked in nursing homes for 13 years before moving to work with Home Instead for the last two years.

She says palliative care can be difficult to navigate with conversations around death and dying, however, she has found the job incredibly rewarding.

"With experience, I know what to say and what not to say. For example, it is important to keep talking to the client even when they are semi-conscious. Clients can more than likely hear you, so you need to be mindful of what you’re doing and saying," says Ms Norman.

"It does come with training, but you learn to pick up on the signs. You could get just a slight response with their hand or a flick from their eye, although this can sometimes be a nerve response. I also keep the family informed about what I’m doing."

Ms Norman remembers her first client fondly, who had terminal cancer, and said that her death had a really big impact on her.

"I try to remember that they are going to a better place and going to be out of pain. This is not a job for the faint of heart, you must be truly interested in making a difference towards the end of someone’s life," says Ms Norman.

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