By Shona McQueen
Catholic Health Australia
Australia’s ageing population is placing a huge strain on the nation’s aged care and palliative care systems. By 2050 the number of Australians aged 65 and over will more than double.
The World Health Organisation has highlighted the potential contribution palliative care can make in reducing unnecessary hospital admissions. However, increasing awareness, knowledge and skills is an important step in realising its benefits.
Eighty per cent of Australians use an aged care program at some stage and more than a third of all deaths occur in residential aged care. Mercy Health, a Catholic Health Australia member, says people are coming into aged care older and often sicker and frailer than ever before. Many people are palliative from the time they come into a facility which means they may need care in managing dementia and other comorbidities in the final stages of their life.
End of Life Directions for Aged Care (ELDAC), funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care, aims to improve the aged care workforce’s capacity to provide quality palliative and advance care planning. Catholic Health Australia is part of the consortia of universities and peak bodies that run ELDAC.
Since 2017, ELDAC has worked to address the gap in palliative care by connecting health professionals and aged care workers with information, resources, and services, to improve quality care for older Australians at the end of their lives. ELDAC aims to educate, empower, and inform aged care workers by providing free and easily accessible information that builds knowledge and skills across the sector.
We talk to everyone, from residential aged care facilities and community aged care providers to specialist palliative care providers and advance care planners, and everyone in between.
We empower general practitioners, aged care providers, and other health care workers with knowledge of palliative care and advance care planning relevant to their situation. As Mercy Health says ‘when you are looking for palliative care information, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.’
ELDAC also links primary, aged and palliative care services, and provides advice on palliative care, advance care planning, and advance directive resources, processes, legislation and accountabilities.
Our website (www.eldac.com.au) contains a range of resources such as evidence-based tool kits developed to support workers in specific aged care settings. There is also a dashboard application that can be embedded into residential facility IT systems to help managers and staff track residents’ and clients’ needs. Other technology solutions include an online self-care resource for aged care staff and organisations and an app for home care staff to help them identify end-of-life care needs and respond accordingly.
We provide a guide to relevant learning resources for facilities and staff, with tools to identify existing educational activities and gaps. We also try to improve quality of care, prevent unnecessary hospital admissions, and shorten hospital stays by encouraging cooperation between aged and palliative care services.
ELDAC contributes to system capabilities by conducting evidence reviews and engaging with all jurisdictional groups to build awareness of its work. And we have launched a national campaign to acknowledge aged care’s role in end-of-life care and to improve death literacy and awareness among aged care workers.
*The views and opinions expressed in Knowledge Blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of ARIIA, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.