Talking About Dying – Starting the Conversation About Palliative Care

The subject of dying is a conversation that is necessary for those facing the end of their life, and for most people is a welcome one when they are heading toward end of life. The often don’t want to bring it up for concern for their family, but we find they are relieved when the family begins to address it openly and honestly.

What is Palliative Care?

The World Health Organisation’s definition of Palliative Care “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.”

Palliative Care Australia’s approach to looking after the overall quality of life of the individual at the end of their days, is offered through:

  • Relief of pain and other symptoms e.g. vomiting, shortness of breath
  • Resources such as equipment needed to aid care at home
  • Assistance for families to come together to talk about sensitive issues
  • Links to other services such as home help and financial support
  • Support for people to meet cultural obligations
  • Support for emotional, social and spiritual concerns
  • Counselling and grief support
  • Referrals to respite care services

Palliative care focuses on the whole family, so that family and carers of the individual are also receiving the support they need to provide the care.

Here are some ways to start the conversation about the care needs of your loved ones as they approach the end of their life. With some preparation work in advance, this time between you and your family and friends can be a memorable one, with the end of someone’s life becoming a deeper, meaningful and sensitive experience, because you know what they want and have had the opportunity to put their wishes into place.

Considerations toward the end of life

Most Australians want to die in the comfort of their own home, and by asking the right questions, people will often tell you exactly what they want toward the end of their days. In fact, 82% of Australians think it is important to talk to their family about how they want to be cared for during this time.

  • They want to choose where they die
  • They want to be cared for by the same nurse and not have different carers
  • They want care whenever they need it
  • They want pain management to be as effective as possible so that they can be comfortable
  • They want their spiritual needs respected and included
  • They want understanding and empathy
  • They want to know their Advanced Care Directives and their pre-planned requests for end of life are being carried out
  • They want to be involved in the decisions about their care
  • They want their family and friends who are involved in their care to be supported as well.

The St Louis’ care team takes all this into consideration and will help you find the services you need to ensure this end of life time is as comfortable and graceful as it can be for the individual and their family.

Resources available to help you and your loved one

There are resources available to help you develop a Palliative Care plan, to speak to professionals for more support or to start the conversation with your loved one about their end of life preferences:

Palliative Care Australia

There are a number of papers and brochures on their website outlining dementia and palliative care, the dying process, supporting your loved one and the family, as well as a directory of services that helps you find additional support.

Dying to Talk

This is an initiative of Palliative Care Australia and its intention is to encourage Australians to talk openly about dying. Resources here include a discussion starter guide and an innovative card game that helps people think about and prioritise what is important to them toward the end of their life.

Palliative Care Week Australia - May 19-25, 2019

By bringing awareness to the subject if dying, Palliative Care Australia are making it more comfortable for all of us to have this sensitive conversation with our loved ones. This week is aimed at generating awareness about how important it is to plan ahead. Check the website for events and resources.

Call St Louis about Palliative Care

St Louis has been caring for older Australians for over 70 years in Adelaide. We have the knowledge and experience to help individuals and their families make the most if this sensitive time. Call the St Louis Care team on 08 8332 0950 for a confidential chat about your palliative care needs.

Want to learn more?

Palliative Care Photo