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Australia needs to improve palliative care for those with dementia: PCA

As Australia marks World Alzheimer’s Day today, Palliative Care Australia is calling for better access to appropriate palliative care for the 353,800 people living with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are the second leading causes of death in Australia, but people with the disease often miss out on palliative care as they aren’t recognised as having a terminal condition, said PCA chief executive Liz Callaghan.

Liz Callaghan

Liz Callaghan

“Dementia is different from other terminal conditions because of the long, unpredictable course of the disease, difficult issues around capacity for decision making, difficulties in communication and lack of community understanding of the disease,” she said.

Because of complications such as these people with dementia may be unaware of, or denied access to, palliative care services. This could result in people living with dementia suffering unnecessarily at the end of their lives, said.

“They may also be missing important opportunities to identify their wishes through an advance care plan. This could be done early in the diagnosis and act as a guide for family as they have to make decisions about their loved one’s care.”

PCA has developed a resource, the Dying to Talk Discussion Starter, that can be used by families to talk about their end-of-life care wishes.

“We encourage Australians to talk more about death, dying and their end-of-life wishes by completing the Dying to Talk Discussion Starter. Unless we have those conversations, we could put our families under considerable strain when they have to make choices for us, without really knowing what we want,” said Ms Callaghan.

Access the Dying to Talk Discussion Starter here

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