As Australia prepares for the COVID-19 crisis in the months ahead, I urge colleagues in the aged care sector to include advance care planning in their preparations.
The Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza 2019 cites the importance of Advance Care Directives as part of a coordinated response. Given that current research demonstrates that only 25% of older Australians aged 65+ years have documented their preferences in an Advance Care Directive, it can be surmised that we’re heading towards the ‘perfect storm’ in coming months.
I believe that a window of opportunity exists right now, where we can work together to ensure that Australians, particularly older Australians with chronic health conditions, are given the chance to consider their current health, their values and a scenario where they become suddenly unwell due to coronavirus.
Whether you work in aged care or in the broader health care sector I ask that you have these conversations now with people in your care and their loved ones. As difficult as they may be for some people, they are no harder than the conversations that might be had in an emergency.
How the aged care workforce can support their community with advance care planning
ACPA recommends aged care providers encourage aged care recipients with decision-making capacity to:
- think about and discuss their future health care preferences with loved ones and their treating medical practitioner
- identify their substitute decision-maker(s). Appoint these when relevant and make this known to their treating medical practitioner or service
- make existing Advance Care Directive documents available and store in their health record
- document their preferences and acceptable/unacceptable outcomes (e.g. CPR, ventilation, loss of independence) in an Advance Care Directive.
More recommendations and advice can be found on the Advance Care Planning Australia COVID-19 advice page, including information about the validity of common law Advance Care Directives (with the exception of Queensland) in a scenario where appropriate signatures cannot be acquired due to quarantine restrictions.
We’re here to help
These are testing times for us all as we grapple with what this crisis means for us, our families, our community and those in our care. In recent times we’ve seen an increase in enquiries to ACPA from people with questions about advance care planning – in both a personal and professional capacity.
Please know that ACPA will retain full service of our National Advisory Service during this crisis to support the aged care and health care sectors in the delivery of advance care planning. We encourage you to refer our service to your colleagues and staff, as well as people in your care and their families.
Call 1300 208 582, 9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday (AEST).
Free online learning is available via the ACPA Learning Hub.