New centre to improve end of life care for older Australians

University of Wollongong awarded $8.9 million funding to establish Palliative Aged Care Outcomes Program

New centre to improve end of life care for older Australians

The Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI) at the University of Wollongong (UOW) has been awarded $8.9 million in Federal Government funding over three years to establish the innovative Palliative Aged Care Outcomes Program (PACOP).

The new program aims to improve significantly the outcomes of all Australians in aged care homes with a particular focus on those who are approaching the end of their life.

It will do this by providing a consistent and nationally agreed framework to drive resident, provider, policy and system-level improvements in palliative and end of life care.

Residential aged care is often a person’s final place of residence, with approximately 60,000 people in residential aged care homes dying each year.

AHSRI Director Professor Kathy Eagar provided expert advice to the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care where compelling evidence was provided about the neglect of older Australian’s living in residential aged care facilities.

In the Australian Government’s response to the Commission’s recommendations, palliative and end-of-life care were concerns singled out for immediate attention.

“We are thrilled to be able to continue our work in this area beyond the initial pilot and look forward to demonstrating greater benefits and having a sustainable impact on this population as PACOP is implemented nationally,” Professor Eagar said.

AHSRI Director Kathy Eagar

AHSRI Director Kathy Eagar

PACOP will be a sister centre to the well-established Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration (PCOC).

PCOC National Director Dr Barb Daveson said: “The new program will have the opportunity to leverage off PCOC’s successful framework and extend quality palliative care more broadly in the community.”

The national team and collaborating researchers from PCOC have been working in conjunction with residential aged care for some time.

In particular, a philanthropic grant in 2019 from the Wicking Trust enabled early development, modification and piloting of the ‘PCOC Wicking Model’ for residential aged care in a number of aged care homes, which provided a strong platform for AHSRI’s newest centre.

Inaugural PACOP Director Professor Claire Johnson (pictured above) brings a wealth of experience and a strong background in primary care to the role. She was most recently the clinical lead for end of life care at Eastern Health (Melbourne) and held the Vivian Bullwinkle Chair of Palliative Care Nursing at Monash University.

“We are delighted that the Australian Government has funded PACOP, along with a number of other important initiatives that look to improve care for older people as they approach the end of life,” Professor Johnson said.

“PACOP will support aged care homes to identify those residents and, by extension, their families with palliative care needs and ensure care is responsive to these needs.

“We will help aged care organisations embed standardised outcomes assessment and to use it to improve the quality of care for the dying.”

AHSRI has strong networks across the health sector and the establishment of the Palliative Aged Care Outcomes Program provides an exciting opportunity to strengthen its relationships within the aged care sector.

UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Patricia M. Davidson welcomed the funding announcement.

“It is so important that people approaching the end of their life are treated with dignity and given the high quality care that they need,” Professor Davidson said.

“Through their expert advice to the Royal Commission into Aged Care, Professor Eagar and the Australian Health Services Research Institute highlighted many of the short fallings in end of life care for older Australians.

“The Palliative Aged Care Outcomes Program will draw on that expertise to play a key role in delivering solutions to those problems and improving the quality of palliative care in residential aged care.”

Main image: Palliative Aged Care Outcomes Program Director Professor Claire Johnson.

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