Allied Health Role in Palliative Care of Older Adults
Palliative care is broadly described as care for people living with life-limiting illness with a focus on quality of life. Individuals will present with varying level of needs and support requirements and varied disease trajectory. A palliative approach will be relevant to any older adult who has an illness or condition that impacts frailty and how long they live, with end-of-life care, in this context, considered to be approximately the last 12 months of life. Therefore the role in supporting older adults is not to extend life, but to maximize quality of life in the care of patients and their families.
Not everyone with a life limiting illness will require a specialist palliative care team. It is therefore important that Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) working with older adults are confident in providing palliative care.
AHPs will have a diverse range of discipline specific skills to support older adults in palliative care and the inevitability of the loss of function and independence, and finally death. But consistent with palliative philosophy, AHPs would share core skills to optimize quality of life and promote dignity and participation in end of life.
These shared roles are:
- to collaborate with the individual and family to make informed choices about their care
- to be aware of advance care planning, and how this can be facilitated.
The National Palliative Care Standards for All Health Professionals and Aged Care Services has been developed to complement the National Palliative Care Standards (5th Edition), to support the better experience and outcomes for people receiving generalist palliative care.
Allied health specific best practice guidance has been collated in the ELDAC Allied Health Toolkit Discipline Specific Evidence pages. In addition, where an older adult is receiving palliative care may impact how the care is provided and funded. ELDAC has developed toolkits to support the delivery of Home Care and also in Residential Aged Care.