healthcare worker talking to resident about advance care planning
ESTATE PLANNING

8 things healthcare workers need to know about end-of-life planning

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  • Mel Buttigieg
  • Writer, Bare
  • May 26, 2021
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An overwhelming 82% of Australians think it is important to talk to their family about their end-of-life care, but only 28% actually do it, according to Palliative Care Australia

“Talking about dying won’t kill you,” the organisation says. Talking about values, wishes and medical preferences is an important part of the healthcare journey for patients, aged care residents and their families. 

This article provides some critical tools to empower you to talk with those in their care about end-of-life planning. We explain how being prepared can ease the pressure off families and the important role healthcare professionals play in encouraging patients and residents not to leave decisions until too late.

Infographics shows 83 per cent of Australians say end-of-life planning i's important, only 21 per cent have done this. Source: Palliative Care Australia
While 82 per cent of Australians say end-of-life planning is important, less than a third have an advance care plan. Source: Palliative Care Australia

1. Carers have a role in starting challenging conversations

The average stay for someone in an aged care facility in Australia is three years. That’s a long time for carers to get to know residents, assist with daily activities and listen to their concerns. That’s why healthcare workers have a key role in starting the conversations with those in their care about what they want as they enter their final stage of life.

Care workers play an important role in supporting residents and patients to make their wishes known for their end-of-life journey. It may be as simple as making families aware of options available for end-of-life medical treatment, or options for practical services like funeral planning and legal support for making a Will. 

In addition, only about half of Australia’s adult population (48%) has a Will, according to comparison site finder.com.au.

By encouraging residents or patients to speak with their family, friends, or doctor about their end-of-life wishes, healthcare professionals can help to ease the burden of making rushed and emotional decisions later on.  It also takes the guesswork out of important medical treatment decisions should a serious illness or injury prevent the person from making their own decisions about healthcare or treatment. Starting planning early helps give the person, their family and their carer peace of mind, urges Advance Care Planning Australia.

At Bare Cremation, we have found that the families who have been most prepared for a person’s passing have been the least emotionally burdened by the things that generally happen following a death. Having an advance care plan and estate planning documents in place before they are needed – like an Appointment of Medical Decision Maker and Last Will & Testament – ensures a person’s wishes are known for their medical treatment and how their estate will be dealt with after they pass.

During your time together, take the opportunity to have these important conversations about end-of-life values and preferences, safely and openly. Talking about advance planning and estate planning in a familiar setting can help residents and patients normalise the discussion around death. You might also encourage them to speak with their family, friends and doctor about these wishes.

2. Talking about end-of-life planning can be easier than you think

We know that talking about death can feel hard, even for carers who often meet people at the final stage of their life. But it doesn’t have to be. 

Perhaps you feel it’s not your place to speak up on such a personal matter. Or you might feel you don’t have the right tools or training. At Bare Cremation, we’re helping to normalise the conversation about death, to make end-of-life planning easier for patients and residents, so that they can leave on their terms. Advance planning can also take the pressure off families who are often left to make these decisions. 

We’ve created an interactive card game called Dealing with Death, that encourages conversations about advance care and estate planning. The game aims to normalise talking about death in a conversational, open (and even fun!) environment. It invites discussions around topics like favourite memories, songs you want played at your funeral and who you would haunt from the afterlife! You might consider playing the game with those in your care or gifting it to a family who could use some help discussing their end-of-life wishes. 

At Bare, we believe advance planning is so important that we’re offering our card games for FREE. To order your copy of Dealing with Death, click the button below.

Bare's Dealing with Death card game.
Bare’s Dealing with Death card game helps to ease people into talking about death.

5. Appointing a decision-maker now makes life easier if a patient loses capacity later

To ensure a resident or patient receives the care they want if they become no longer able to make life-changing decisions for themselves, encourage them to appoint an Enduring Power of Attorney or medical decision maker.

This legally-binding authority allows the appointed person to make decisions on another person’s behalf relating to legal, financial, medical and personal matters. It can be useful to have in place if a patient becomes unwell or loses the ability to make decisions or manage their financial affairs.

It can be helpful to advise those in your care of the benefits of having such documents. Click the button below to read our article about the role of an Enduring Power of Attorney. We recommend sharing it with your patients or residents. 

6. Not discussing values and wishes could mean medical treatment they wouldn’t want

An advance care directive will help guide the patient’s medical treatment decision maker if they are faced with a life-changing choice. Without one, it may be difficult for the medical treatment decision-maker to know the patient’s wishes or values if they become unable to make these decisions for themselves. This can happen for example if a patient becomes unconscious after an accident or medical procedure. 

If a person’s wishes for life-changing care are not known, doctors may use aggressive treatments that the patient might not have wanted. However, if a patient has strong values or beliefs – either consenting to, or refusing a particular medical treatment – then outlining these instructions in an advance care directive means medical professionals cannot override these wishes.

We recommend sharing the below guide to advance care directives with your patients or residents. 

7. Without a Will, the wrong people might get an inheritance

If a resident has died without a valid Will, known as ‘dying intestate, a formula set by law dictates how their assets will be distributed to their family – but this may not be in the way the person would have wanted. When no Will exists, disputes often arise among the deceased person’s family and these arguments are often fought in court and can be expensive and emotionally taxing. 

If there is a Will, but it is not updated to consider changed life events like new relationships or children, important people may be overlooked in favour of people who are no longer as significant. 

It’s not as difficult as people might think. Bare offers a free legal Will that can be made easily online in less than 10 minutes. Let those in your care know that creating or updating a Will can be done easily, by heading to our website by clicking the below button.

Bare offers a free legal Will that can be made easily online in less than 10 minutes.
Bare offers a free legal Will that can be made easily online in less than 10 minutes.

8. Professional legal help doesn’t have to cost a fortune

Bare Law offers a complete Wills and estate planning service at a fraction of the price traditional legal firms charge. Our estate planning and probate specialists offer fixed rates to help make Wills and important end-of-life documents like an Enduring Power of Attorney and Appointment of Medical Decision Maker. 

For a free, no-obligation chat, speak to our estate lawyers on (03) 9917 3388 or visit our website here.

Final thoughts on end-of-life planning

Too many people put off end-of-life planning until it’s too late. Having important estate planning documents in place can provide the person in your care and their family with peace of mind. Talking about end-of-life and planning for death is a normal part of life, so healthcare professionals, friends and family members alike shouldn’t be afraid to enter conversations about it.

At Bare, we want to normalise the discussion around death and dying. It is our mission to empower more Australians to talk to their loved ones about their wishes and values for end-of-life planning. Bare makes estate planning simple and affordable.

Our prepaid funeral concierge team, and in-house Wills and estate lawyers, are here to help those in your care make plans for their end of life. That might be to create or update their Will, get an advance care plan in place, prepay their funeral, or answer any questions about estate planning. 

You can rely on Bare when the time comes. Wherever we’re needed, 24/7. Just give us a call on 1800 071 176. We’re here when you need us.

Click the below button to download our Bare Carers information pack.

You can also download our guide to the five most important estate planning documents Australians should have in place as they enter the final stage of their life, below.

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