A larger population of elderly Australians isn’t simply an issue for aged care providers in terms of accommodation and having to optimise funding, but it creates associated problems, as well.
In just 20 years from 30 June 1993 to 30 June 2013, the population of older people (over 65) increased from 11.6 per cent to 14.4 per cent of total citizens – with projections seeing this climbing even higher. Over the next decade, the Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts that every territory will see these numbers climb.
A greater proportion of older Australians means things like palliative care move to the forefront of considerations, especially for aged care providers having to meet resident and family demands.
Understanding palliative care
Palliative care can be defined as many different things, but the World Health Organization outlines it as:
“An approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment.”
The organisation goes on to explain that in order for it to be effective, palliative care must take a multidisciplinary approach that includes family and community resources. This will need to be an especially important consideration in aged care facilities, where resources can often be stretched.
An approach within aged care facilities
The Australian Department of Health has taken action with regards to Australian palliative care, by providing a resource called the Guidelines for a Palliative Approach in Residential Aged Care. This was given to every aged care home within Australia in 2004.
These offered a strong framework for residents and families by providing a palliative approach and up-skilling staff in administering such types of care.
This method was put in place some time ago, however, and further revision will need to be considered to maintain the palliative care option for the growing population.
Defining the issues
Palliative Care Australia recently detailed the challenges in a submission to the Senate in regards to health. The report explained that one of the key issues for palliative care was the overlap between aged care and health care. The expanding elderly population was noted as a particular concern, as any aged care reforms could impact people requiring palliative care.
The option of palliative care is something that needs to remain a top priority, and the aged care sector and organisations involved in palliative care must be aware of coming changes and the need to take action.