Most of those involved in the care of the elderly and chronically ill understand the role of advance planning and want to support patients and their families through the decision-making process, yet many admit they are in need of more training, support and upskilling in the area.

Linda Nolte

Advance Care Planning Australia program director Linda Nolte says research has shown the benefits of involving patients and their families in planning for future health care, but advance care planning content is absent as a standard element in medical, nursing or allied health curricula.

“Dealing with patients suffering from chronic and complex health conditions is tough,” she says.

“There are symptoms to manage, emotions to navigate and loved ones to consider. Asking them to think about a future time when they may be too ill to make their own decisions can be even tougher.

“But we shouldn’t shy away from these difficult conversations.”

That’s why Advance Care Planning Australia, a national program by funded the health department, is offering an online learning resource to help care workers and health professionals gain confidence about discussing advance care planning with patients.

The evidence-based online resource offers practical information and contains real-life case studies, as well as covering legal issues. It consists of nine modules covering benefits of planning, communication strategies, state-by-state legal implications, implementing advance care, dementia, aged care, cultural diversity and advanced communication skills.

Putting advance care on the curriculum

Ms Nolte says ACPA is currently working on a program looking at how to include advance care planning  in tertiary health programs.

“Given the considerable social and economic challenges that come with a rapidly ageing population, we are strongly of the view that advance care planning should be integrated as a standard Australian curricula element for medicine, nursing and health courses in higher education,” she said.

Advance care planning at a glance:

  • About 50 per cent of people will not be able to make their own end of life decisions
  • Less than 15 per cent of Australians have an advanced care directive
  • One in three Australians will die before 75 most people will die after a chronic illness
  • Research shows advance planning can reduce anxiety, depression and stress in families

(Source: Advance Care Planning Australia)

Education providers interested getting involved can contact ACPA.

The online modules are available here.

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