National Palliative Care Week highlights the importance of end-of-life planning

National Palliative Care Week (NPCW) returns from 19 May to 25 May 2024, marking the nation’s largest annual initiative to deepen understanding of palliative care and encourage action around end-of-life planning.

Following the success of the 2023 campaign, which reached over 2.13 million Australians, this year Palliative Care Australia (PCA) and its members are set to amplify their efforts. The theme, “Matters of Life and Death,” highlights the urgent need to educate and empower Australians about quality of life towards the end of life.

“As our population ages and levels of chronic disease increase, so does the demand for palliative care,” said Camilla Rowland, Chief Executive Officer of PCA.

“Our research points to a 50% surge in demand over this decade, doubling by 2050. This alarming data underscores the urgent need for us to proactively address the growing needs of Australians.”

Camilla Rowland

In a statement, Ms Rowland emphasised that recent health reforms are a positive step, but more comprehensive government and community efforts are necessary to uphold what she describes as a human right. This year’s NPCW campaign will showcase the holistic nature of palliative care through a series of videos featuring the voices of the broader workforce, First Nations perspectives, and personal experiences of palliative care.

“National Palliative Care Week is an opportunity to open minds and hearts to the profound human spirit that drives palliative care and unlock the knowledge that comes when people and families are challenged by a life-limiting diagnosis,” Ms Rowland added.

The urgency of end-of-life planning is starkly highlighted by PCA’s recent National Palliative Care Community Survey, which revealed that 90% of Australians believe end-of-life planning is important, yet only 40% have taken steps towards it.

Reflecting on this, Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner Peter Jenkin noted, “People are death denying, we don’t want to talk about it because we are worried it will tempt fate, and I think there is a sense of – it’s going to happen to someone else, not me.”

NPCW aims to confront these fears and empower Australians to take control of their end-of-life planning. A significant part of this year’s initiative is the introduction of a new symbol for the palliative care sector – the ‘Orange Heart.’

“The ‘orange heart’ has been seen and used universally as a symbol of care and friendship. It is seen as being ‘heartwarming and encouraging’ and used as a symbol of ‘always being there for me’ – values that connect with palliative care,” explained Rowland. She encouraged everyone to buy and wear an orange heart lapel pin to show support for those receiving and delivering palliative care.

These pins will be available for purchase at local events and on the PCA website, with funds raised supporting advocacy and policy initiatives to expand palliative care services.

Ms Rowland also urged people to share their palliative care stories using the hashtag #MattersofLifeandDeath on social media. “Whether you’re receiving palliative care now, or have previous experience, please share your story as a way of recognizing those people and acts of kindness and care that made a difference. Your story has the power to inspire others.”

As National Palliative Care Week begins, it calls upon Australians to confront the inevitable with compassion and planning, ensuring a quality life until the very end.

Further information and resources can be found here.

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