Having the conversation about end of life

Morgan Liotta

22/05/2018 2:10:53 PM

While eight out of 10 Australians believe it is important to talk to their family about care wishes in the event they become seriously ill, only one in four have actually had the conversation, a new survey has found.

By further connecting palliative care patients with their family and healthcare professionals, the conversation about end-of-life can be made easier.
By further connecting palliative care patients with their family and healthcare professionals, the conversation about end-of-life can be made easier.

Palliative Care Australia (PCA) has released findings from a commissioned survey, conducted by JWS Research, on how well prepared Australians are for their end-of-life-care.
It turns out, according to the survey, people are somewhat failing in this preparation.
Only one in 10 adults has a nominated person to make healthcare decisions on their behalf, and one in 20 adults has an advance care plan or advance care directive. One in four adults has no end-of-life documentation at all.
‘There is a disconnect between what people think they should do to prepare for the end of life and what actions they take,’ PCA Chief Executive Officer Liz Callaghan said.
‘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.’
Associate Professor Joel Rhee, GP and Chair of the RACGP Cancer and Palliative Care Specific Interests network, heralds the recent implementation of the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 as a positive step. He believes it will make the conversation about end-of-life care easier between patients and their GP.

‘It is now easier, as a doctor, to discuss advance care planning with your patients because you can actually point to an Act and the regulations around it, whereas before you had to talk about common law, which is always less certain,’ he recently told newsGP.
Although the PCA/JWS Research survey indicates that seven in 10 respondents agree that people should talk to health professionals about their wishes for end-of-life care, and that health professionals should raise this issue with patients, it also validates that more action needs to be taking place in having these conversations. Associate Professor Joel Rhee believes this is possible with the assistance of the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016.
However, the survey also revealed that a third of Australians find it difficult to talk about their wishes for care and would only do so if other family members first raised the subject.
Three in four respondents agree people should plan ahead for their end-of-life care, with key benefits including control over care, where they spend their final days, and reducing stress and burden on loved ones.
Although such planning may be on people’s ‘to do’ list, the breakdown of what actions people have actually taken shows that only two thirds have some type of documentation in place – most commonly a will (48%), power of attorney (24%) and/or life insurance (24%).
This week is National Palliative Care week (20–26 May). PCA has a number of resources designed to help people start the conversation about end-of-life-care.

advance-care-directive advance-care-plan end-of-life palliative-care

newsGP weekly poll Is your practice at risk of closing in the next 12 months?


Login to comment

Dr Roya Jadidi   2/11/2018 4:41:02 PM

It gave me a general idea about advance care planning