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Improving palliative care for Australians living with dementia


In an earnest move to elevate the quality of life for individuals, families and caregivers embarking on the journey with dementia, Palliative Care Australia (PCA) and Dementia Australia have jointly framed a set of nine recommendations.

Camilla Rowland, Chief Executive Officer of PCA, underscores the gravity of the situation, stating, “Dementia is the biggest health issue facing Australians over 65 years.” Rowland passionately advocates for the integration of dementia care and palliative care.

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..”

In pursuit of this noble goal, PCA and Dementia Australia have taken a significant step by revisiting their longstanding joint policy statement. The move amplifies their ongoing advocacy endeavours, which are poised to meet the escalating demand for comprehensive 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,”  Rowland said highlighting the urgency of the situation.

“The growing number of Australians with dementia is a key driver,” Rowland emphasises. This assertion is further substantiated by a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), forecasting that the number of individuals affected by dementia is anticipated to surpass 800,000 by 2058.

As Rowland stresses the need for an adept and accessible workforce, she noted, “Central to meeting that need is having a workforce that is trained and available.”

The pivotal joint policy statement underscores this crucial aspect and outlines nine significant recommendations:

  1. Education at the Core: Compulsory dementia and palliative care education for all health and care professionals involved in the delivery of care for people living with dementia.
  2. Early Involvement: Early involvement of the person with dementia, and their family members and carers, in discussions about palliative care.
  3. Flexibility in 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.
  4. Enhanced Access to Expertise: 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.
  5. Streamlined Planning: The implementation of nationally consistent advance care planning legislation to reduce jurisdictional confusion.
  6. Technology Integration: 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 said, “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.”

Amidst the nuanced landscape of dementia care across diverse healthcare and community settings, McCabe underscored the urgency of developing streamlined services to foster effective palliative care experiences at home and within the community.

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

While the reform agenda spearheaded by Minister Butler, along with Minister Wells and Assistant Minister Kearney, sets the stage for transformative change, Rowland said, “But more needs to be done and we are ready to play our part.”

The collective dedication of PCA and Dementia Australia paints a hopeful picture of enhanced dementia and palliative care in Australia’s future.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.


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