Improving end-of-life care

Innovative toolkit aims to improve end-of-life care in aged care facilities

Recent studies have highlighted the lack of good quality end-of-life care and its negative consequences for residents in aged care facilities.

Every year, approximately 1700 older people die in aged care settings, and less than 5% have advanced care directives in place. This means that for most people in aged care, there are no planned strategies for how they wish to die with dignity, in alignment with their values.

“A comprehensive assessment, the timely provision of medication at the end-of-life stage, and coordination of care by a multidisciplinary team are all key when it comes to providing high-quality palliative care,” says Associate Professor Hanan Khalil.

“A major barrier to this is the aged care staff shortage and a lack of training and education opportunities which results in suboptimal care for residents.”

To address this, Associate Professor Khalil is currently leading a project that aims to develop and implement a freely available palliative care assessment toolkit in residential aged care facilities.

“The toolkit, codesigned by a multidisciplinary team and in partnership with Sunraysia Community Health Services, aims to provide a holistic and tailored palliative care model that standardises care delivery, referral and coordination within aged care facilities,” she explains.

The toolkit includes best-practice guidelines for the use of anticipatory medications for end-of-life and palliative care, a checklist for palliative care nurses and appropriate referral pathways.

“Our project has also involved the implementation of a training and education program for aged care staff to ensure the toolkit is being appropriately used and embedded.”

“We have further identified the need for upskilling nursing staff on early identification of palliative care, undertaking difficult conversations and ongoing monitoring of residents.”

Associate Professor Khalil says the toolkit represents a significant step forward in improving end-of-life care for aged-care residents.

“We hope that the toolkit will contribute to improved palliative care for residents, decrease unnecessary hospitalisations, reduce distress of residents and their carers, and better utilise aged care funding.”