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What does Palliative Care mean for Aged Carers?

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Palliative Care Training Courses in Aged Care

We Australians rarely talk about the final days of life, particularly our own.

Aged care work usually involves providing assistance to the elderly and help them lead active lives, but sometimes it also means you will help patients prepare for death. End of life care, known as palliative care, is a challenging yet important part of the job in your career as an aged care worker.

In order to succeed as an aged care worker, it is important that you overcome this cultural trait to effectively support your terminal patients and their families.

What is the purpose of palliative care for Aged Carers?

Palliative care is different from your typical medical treatment because it isn’t meant to be  curative.

Palliative patients don’t have their deaths delayed or hastened. Instead, you provide comfort by making sure their physical, emotional and even spiritual needs are met. This includes their families as well since they have to cope with the loss of someone close to them.

If you’re looking to become an aged or community care worker, or already work in aged care, then you will most likely need to know how to provide this kind of care. Don’t worry if you’re not yet familiar with it.  There are courses like the Certificate III in Aged Care which includes units specifically about palliative care, CHCPA301B – Deliver care services using a palliative approach, which will help you develop the skills you need.

What should Aged Carers know about Palliative Care?

As an aged care worker, there are 6 elements of palliative care you should know about:

Aged Care and the 6 Elements of Palliative Care

 

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1. The 1st element is being aware of the general principles behind palliative care and how to apply it. You need to understand the needs of your client in a holistic way that doesn’t just end at the time of death.

2. The next element is learning how to respect your client’s choices about their quality of life. This begins with encouraging them to share their needs with you and their family by fostering a supportive environment. You can use this information to create a personalised care plan that follows their wishes. This element also teaches you how to:

  •   Support the freedom of the client, carer, his/her family and /or significant others to discuss spiritual and cultural issues in an open and non-judgemental way within scope of own responsibilities and skills
  •   Refer further needs and issues to appropriate member of the care team in line with organisation protocols
  •  Respect client’s lifestyle, social context and spiritual needs and document observations in line with care plan

3. The 3rd element is being aware of the ethical and legal implications of following a care plan. Complying with the advanced directives you receive is an essential part of palliative care. You need to learn how to document these directives together with needs of your client and report to your team or supervisor. Other skills taught here include:

  • Delivering services in a manner that supports the right of clients to choose the location of their end of life care
  • Complying with end-of-life decisions as documented in the care plan and in keeping with legal requirements

4. The 4th element deals with end-of-life strategies leading up to their final moments. This includes recognising when your client’s condition deteriorates and death is imminent. During this time, it is important to provide a supportive environment to those around your client. Other skills include how to:

  • Maintain dignity of the client in undertaking planned end-of-life care and immediately following death
  • Recognise emotional needs of other clients, carers and their families affected and provide support when a death has occurred

5. The 5th element is specifically for knowing when your client is experiencing pain or discomfort. This plays a huge role in evaluating the effectiveness of your care plan. More responsibilities that fall under this are:

  • Documenting observations of pain and other symptoms and promptly report to appropriate member of care team
  • Implementing strategies to promote comfort in line with care plan

6. The 6th and final element is managing your own emotional response since caring for a palliative patient can have a significant impact on carers. You need to acknowledge these by reflecting on what you’ve experienced and accepting the support of your peers. Other ways to do this include:

  • Reflecting upon ethical issues and discuss with appropriate person if necessary
  • Following organisational policies and procedures in relation to managing emotional responses and ethical issues

Who provides Palliative Care?

Aged care workers aren’t the only ones who deliver palliative services. You may be required or even choose to specialise in palliative care in a wide variety of professional health care roles. Palliative care may be provided by:

  • Specialist physicians and doctors with significant study and work experience
  • Support services like grief and bereavement counselors
  • Allied health professionals, pharmacists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists
  • General practitioners and medical staff
  • Nurses
  • Social workers
  • Pastoral care workers

Summary

Australia’s aging population is pushing up demand for palliative care services, making it an essential skill in your career as an aged care worker.

It is not just about helping your terminal patients be comfortable in their final moments. Palliative care involves fulfilling their emotional and spiritual needs and those of the people around them.

If you want to learn how to provide palliative care as part of your aged care work, courses like the Certificate III in Aged Care or Home and Community Care are excellent starting points. You may also seek more advanced, specialised training in this area.

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