The results of a recent survey by Palliative Care Australia (PCA) have highlighted the importance of planning for the end-of-life care needs of loved ones, according to the organisation’s chief executive Dr Yvonne Luxford.
The online survey, conducted over March-April 2013 and involving 1,000 men and women 18 years or older who had recently lost a loved one, paints a revealing picture of how Australians prepare for the death of someone close to them.
Only 15 per cent of the loved ones that passed away had a care plan in place ahead of time which specified their wishes.
As a result, nearly a third (30 per cent) ended up being cared for at a facility that wasn’t in fact their place of choice.
Dr Luxford said that the sort of care we receive at the end of our lives and where we are to receive it is important for everyone to discuss.
“Unfortunately the survey reveals Australians simply aren’t having conversations about death and dying and are therefore flying blind when it comes to understanding the end of life wishes of their loved ones,” she said in a May 20 statement.
More than half (53 per cent) of survey respondents said that they did not feel prepared for the death of a loved one, and 13 per cent said that they did not know where their loved one wished to be cared for at the end of their lives.
“While there is nothing tougher than losing a loved one, talking about and planning for a loved one’s final weeks is a simple act of love everyone can do to reduce the burden on those left behind and help make decision-making simpler at a difficult time,” said Dr Luxford.
Those surveyed were also asked to indicate what advice they would give to others faced with loved ones nearing the end of their lives.
Sixty per cent recommended having a discussion early on about the sort of care the loved one would prefer to receive and to find out if they had a preferred location or facility, and 43 per cent encouraged others to have an advance care plan in place.
President of PCA professor Patsy Yates said that planning for care in advance can ensure that loved ones’ “beliefs, preferences, values and decisions” are respected.
Something that is not so easy to plan for, or to predict, is whether inheritance disputes may arise after the passing of a loved one.