Villa Maria Catholic Homes
VMCH is leading the way in improving Australian palliative care services, by playing a key role in a national specialist advisory service.
End of Life Directions for Aged Care (ELDAC) aims to provide information, guidance, and resources to care providers to equip them with skills and information to help older Australians receive high-quality end of life care in familiar surroundings with little or no need for hospitalisation.
ELDAC, which is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, has provided funding for each of VMCHs 12 residential aged care homes to improve the provision of on-site palliative care for residents.
Jeff Brooks, VMCH Clinical Manager says VMCH is the flagship organisation involved in ELDAC, being the first organisation with all residential aged care homes to participate.
‘The goal for us is to build capacity within the organisation, and each home, to provide excellent palliative care services, and better utilise the local external resources as a support when needed.’
Jeff says the ability to recognise when a resident is entering the palliative approach phase of their life is vital. This may be identified many months before the resident dies, and allows for case conferencing with the resident, their GP, the family, external palliative care (if required) and care staff to ensure that advanced care directives are reviewed and followed, and a plan of palliative care is devised.
‘We want to educate and empower our staff to recognise when a resident is about the enter the palliative approach phase, as early as possible.
‘Often these indications occur well in advance, which is why we need to be confident in assessing each resident.
‘Creating an Advanced Care Plan (ACP) when a resident first enters the home is an essential step in ensuring that their family and staff are aware of the resident’s wishes for their care. This can include pain management, medical intervention, music preferences, or spiritual care.’
Jeff says the stigma around death can be a road block in having the discussions before a resident’s health begins to decline. He says we need to break this down and make it into a discussion about improving the quality of the older person while they are still living.
‘Recognising the signs of decline as early as possible, plus having a prepared ACP, can make it easier it for the family as their loved ones wishes have already been communicated, and an appropriate plan can be put in place for the comfort of the resident. It also means that we know the resident wishes will be considered when they can’t communicate their preferences for care.
‘Most people wish to die at home in preference to a hospital, their home is our workplace and we should ensure we do everything to make their wishes occur. By good planning and supporting the families well during this period, in a comfortable, supportive environment with excellent pastoral care, we will make each residents death – a good death.’
Training and education for VMCH staff will be occurring in the next 6 months. VMCH, through the ELDAC project will be establishing working groups with all homes and their respective palliative care providers, hospital in-reach programs and Primary Health Networks to strengthen the relationships with our external providers.
For more information on ELDAC visit www.eldac.com.au