Early conversations about death- breaking down the barriers

The 2016 national Palliative Care week (May 22nd-28th) theme is living well with chronic illness. In advanced chronic illness there is a need for people to access palliative care at the right time. Chronic illness can result in hospital admissions yet there may be few conversations about death. Why wait for someone else to raise the topic? Would you be surprised if death occurred in the next 12 months?

A February 2016 video, from Calvary Health Care – Bethlehem illustrates the building of communication and the breaking of preconceptions of palliative care via a collaborative partnership with secondary students. The 13 minute video shows the students wanting to know about death and seeing that living continues, even when you know you are going to die. The aim of the project included demystifying palliative care and promoting conversations amongst families. The students express trepidation about participating and then recognised how they grew over time.

The Australian Centre for Health Research (www.achr.com.au) released CONVERSATIONS Creating Choice in End of Life Carein early March. A key message is a need to transform our culture so we shift from not talking about dying to talking about it. Let’s face it, we all die.
The report gives 8 steps on how this can be achieved. Two of the steps are

  • People talk about their wishes for End of Life Care with family and loved ones at the kitchen table. Then documenting their choices of care and initiating conversations with their health professional.
  • Communities build capacity to become compassionate and support people to live well and die well in partnership with health professionals…

Not everyone will want to talk about the end of their life, but the ‘right conversations, with the right people, at the right time’ can enable a patient and their loved ones to make the best use of the time that is left and prepare for what lies ahead. (p4)

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