Dementia and palliative care – meeting the need in Australia’s future

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, Education, Featured, Opinion, and People & Places.

Palliative Care Australia and Dementia Australia have framed nine recommendations to deliver better quality of life to people, families, and carers traveling life’s journey with dementia. 

“Dementia is the biggest health issue facing Australians over 65 years,” says Camilla Rowland, Chief Executive Officer, Palliative Care Australia (PCA).  

“We need to better integrate dementia care and palliative care so that the 400,000 Australians currently living with dementia can make the most of life – and for a lot of those people, that will mean many years of quality living and relationships.” 

To that end PCA and Dementia Australia, have just updated a long-standing joint policy statement as part of ongoing advocacy efforts in the face of increasing demand for care. 

Demand for palliative care is increasing, we are on a trajectory towards a 50% increase in the next decade and the need doubling by 2050,” Ms Rowland says.  

“The growing number of Australians with dementia is a key driver, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report that the number of people with dementia is expected to increase to more than 800,000 by 2058. 

“Central to meeting that need is having a workforce that is trained and available,” Ms Rowland says. 

 The joint policy statement speaks to that and makes nine recommendations including: 

  • Compulsory dementia and palliative care education for all health and care professionals involved in the delivery of care for people living with dementia. 
  • Early involvement of the person with dementia, and their family members and carers, in discussions about palliative care. 
  • Flexible models of palliative care which enable health and care professionals to provide the right care, at the right time and in the right setting to accommodate the changing needs of people living with dementia, and their carers. 
  • Improved access to specialist palliative care services in the community to address the complex needs of people living with dementia and their carers, and to enable greater choice in the type of care that is provided. 
  • The implementation of nationally consistent advance care planning legislation to reduce jurisdictional confusion. 
  • Encourage individuals to link advance care plans to their My Health Record to ensure they can be accessed by all health professionals involved in the care of the individual in a timely manner. 

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe says, “dementia is a terminal illness and appropriate palliative care is an essential element of quality care for people with dementia, and for their families and carers.”  

“While we acknowledge the contextual complexities of dementia care within the different health care and community settings, it is essential that streamlined services are developed and accessible for more effective home and community palliative care experiences. 

“Improving palliative care for people with dementia, no matter where they live, must be a policy priority, Australia-wide, across the states and territories.” 

The full joint policy statement is available on the Palliative Care Australia website. 

“We look forward to the continued interest of Minister Butler in this work, the reform agenda he and Minister Wells and Assistant Minister Kearney are leading is a foundation for the change we want to see, but more needs to be done and we are ready to play our part,” Ms Rowland says. 

Dive deeper…

Palliative Care Australia and Dementia Australia recently collaborated on a PCA Connect webinar – ‘Navigating the Journey: Planning and preparing for palliative care post dementia diagnosis’.

The webinar shed light on the intricate relationship between dementia and palliative care, emphasising the significance of empathy while providing practical insights and actionable strategies for appropriate care.

Our panellists addressed the impact of dementia on individuals and families, the challenges commonly associated with the life-limiting condition, and the value of integrating palliative care into dementia management.

The powerful lived experiences shared, were complemented by expert clinical perspectives – helping us all unpack what palliative care can offer post dementia diagnosis.

Panel members:

Dr Elissa Campbell – Geriatrician and palliative care physician

Jayne Littledike – Clinical Nurse Consultant with the Nightingale Program

Vern Marshall – Dementia Advocate

Barry Egan – Dementia Advocate

You can watch the full webinar HERE.

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This information was published with permission from Palliative Care Australia. You can read the original article here.

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