No time like the present to plan for end of life care

Working with families trying to make decisions for their loved ones who are near the end of their lives and can no longer communicate is a stressful and heartbreaking scenario, as palliative care specialist and HammondCare Director, Centre for Learning and Research in Palliative Care, Professor Josephine Clayton knows only too well.

Old woman consulting with person at deskThis experience is what drove Josephine and her colleagues to develop advance care planning training for GPs and practice nurses, the health professionals who are often best placed to support people to plan for their future care because trust has already been established.

Advance care planning is important in ensuring a person’s values and preferences relating to health and personal care at the end of their life are known.

To support general practices to implement a team-based approach to initiating advance care planning and identifying people early who might benefit from palliative and supportive care, WA Primary Health Alliance is partnering with HammondCare to implement their Advance Project model in WA.

This involves face-to-face training, mentoring and resources to support general practice teams to embed the Advance Project model into everyday clinical practice.

WA Primary Health Alliance General Manager Bernadette Kenny says the Advance Project provides a unique opportunity to work with general practice to build the capacity of everyone in the team to initiate informed discussions with patients.

“Sparking conversations about end of life planning can be difficult, and this training package will support GPs and practice staff to be proactive about advance care planning with their patients and ensure they receive the right care when and where they need it,” Ms Kenny said.

Professor Clayton confirmed there is a significant need for this approach and while some people might not be ready to talk about it immediately, planting the seed is crucial early on.

“Often people think about this when a loved one is in the emergency room or about to go into an aged care facility, but by then they’ve often lost the capacity to take part in decision making,’’ Professor Clayton said.

After delivering a suite of educational workshops in Rivervale, Mandurah, Greenwood and Albany, WA Primary Health Alliance is now offering practices the opportunity to receive bespoke, onsite training in a condensed format that takes under an hour to complete.

The online training is endorsed by the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association, accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, and delivered by a national consortium led by HammondCare.

General practices interested in completing the training can contact project lead Rose Adamson on 0428 636 753 or email roseanne.adamson@wapha.org.au

The Advance ProjectTM is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, with a suite of resources and online training available at www.theadvanceproject.com.au

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