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What is the relationship between good advocacy services and good palliative care?
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What is the relationship between good advocacy services and good palliative care?

A guest blog post by Lewis Kaplan, former CEO, Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN)

Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) manages the National Aged Care Advocacy Program. OPAN provides information, education and free, confidential individual advocacy to both community and residential aged care and potential consumers, their carers and families.

Advocacy is a rights-based service which aims to ensure consumers better understand and stand up for their rights so they can more effectively interact with the aged care system (both providers and government agencies). Last year over 7,000 people had contact with advocacy services and advocacy can support consumers to resolve problems or complaints with their aged care provider, either through increased capacity to self-advocate or by direct advocacy.

Advocacy services can support consumers and their carers to better engage with aged care service providers when concerns or issues are not being resolved. OPAN services can also support consumers through the formal complaints process, but it is very often the case that providers want to do the right thing, with advocacy services helping them to realise what that is.

Good aged care must actively include access to palliative care. Too many older Australians are still denied access to palliative care through lack of understanding of the value of integrating models of palliative care into aged care services.

Advance care planning is taking a more visible place in the care cycle of older people. As the Minister for Aged Care recently said: “Advance care planning promotes dignity and care that is consistent with a person’s goals, values, beliefs and preferences and can help ensure they receive the right type of treatment at the right time.” But advance care planning must be followed through with realisable care that consumers want, and in the majority of cases this includes good quality palliative care.

Some ambulance services have started to ask aged care homes if residents have advance care plans before carting them off to hospital emergency departments when aged care home staff feel they can’t cope with a breakdown in health. When a resident in clearly dying, being taken to hospital is often the worst outcome for them. Well planned and delivered palliative is not just a better option, it is what people want.

Palliative care is increasingly part of the paradigm of aged care, but is clearly still lacking in too many instances. Advocacy services understand the value of palliative care. They can support aged care consumers to ensure that palliative care is part of their care plan, and can support consumers to redress the situation if it’s not.

Call OPAN on 1800 700 600 if you have a concern with your aged care provider which you don’t feel confident to fix on your own. You will be put through to the advocacy service in your state or territory. OPAN services are funded by the Australian Government’s National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP).

For more details, visit the website: www.opan.com.au

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Lewis Kaplan, former CEO, Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN)
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