Shaping inclusive palliative care and aged care policy  

Jan 22, 2022 | Advance Care Planning, Australian Aged Care

Inclusive palliative care and aged care is a vital part of a robust aged care system. Real inclusion policies in aged care and palliative care are every professional’s responsibility. We need to be able to provide care that is culturally appropriate, supportive and accepting.

And we need to do it in a range of settings, including in the home, in hospital environments, at hospice level, in aged care facilities and in other institutional settings such as correctional facilities or in accommodation for people living with a disability.

Real momentum has been gained with research, especially in the last decade. But more needs to be done.

Here are some of the considerations and techniques we can employ to make inclusive palliative care and aged care policy a reality

Make meaningful community consultation a priority

No one knows the fears, challenges and biases within the aged care, palliative care and healthcare systems better than the people who have experienced them. This is why evidence-based theory must work hand-in-hand with real community consultation.

What does that mean for you?

  • Make use of the research that has already been conducted into Indigenous, LGBTI and Disability palliative and aged care
  • Build on that research with your own community outreach. Take the time to gain feedback from marginalised communities even if they are not actively part of your current client base
  • Ensure space in your budget and schedule for cultural sensitivity reading prior to running surveys and/or focus groups
  • Create opportunities within community consultation for proper representation. Look to your staff and clients for champions to inform, guide or even direct outreach
  • Uphold the value lived experience experts can bring. The mental health sector and disability sector have grown significantly through lived experience peer support and advocacy. Including space for people who are less connected to theory but are vocal and informed in lived experience circles can help expedite change. And it can avoid a lot of the pitfalls associated with operating from a theory-only perspective
  • Accept it is a continual process. Inclusive palliative care and aged care is in start-up mode. As we grow with our understanding and experience with it, so too will what we learn. As professionals, we must accept it is going to be an ongoing – and rapidly iterating – process.

Real inclusion begins with inviting the community to be a part of the process. And ensuring that the community feels welcome enough to continually add to the knowledge gathering process.

Build models and materials that are culturally agnostic

A poster reads We stand with you. You are safe here. In relation to all ages and an array of culturally diverse backgrounds.

Photo by Brittani Burns via Unsplash.

Luckily, we’re familiar with person-centred care. This is another layer to that. One where we design systems, policies, physical environments, marketing materials and educational material with all people in mind.

For example, significant barrier to the LGBT community engaging with palliative and aged care is the perception of judgement by faith-based services, stigma towards HIV+ status and/or hetero-normative assumptions, including in publicity material, forms, and interpersonal communication. This was documented in the 2019 Australian Government Department of Health Exploratory Analysis of Barriers to Palliative Care for the LGBTI community.

Want to check your marketing and communication materials for cultural sensitivity? With the Australian government’s Aged Care Diversity Framework and associated assets can help step you through the process.

And for recording care plans, advance care plans and your client’s values, you can’t go past ExSitu. At ExSitu, we decided early on to ensure our documentation was what we term culturally agnostic. We made this decision because we knew some of the biggest barriers to seeking healthcare, palliative care or making aged care choices was a lack of representation. It now helps guide our many clients within the aged care, palliative care and disability sector through documenting people’s individual choices. All without facing issues related to bias, assumption or alienation across a culturally diverse Australian landscape.

Lean in on education and training

Having a culturally sensitive and inclusive model is one thing. Training and activating for that training on the floor is when the real change starts.

Take the time to help you staff to understand what can make all the difference to your clients.

Here are some of the ways you can do that:

Start early and repeat often

Use your staff induction process an opportunity to introduce inclusion. And then build on it as a staff member matures into their role. This helps set the standard right from the beginning.

Invite in peak bodies to help you

You don’t have to reinvent the inclusion wheel. Working with already existing bodies to help train your staff on inclusion and aspects where cultural sensitivity may have a bearing is incredibly useful. This is one such resource from the Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing.

Take advantage of existing resources

There are plenty of useful reports and assets you can use to define, design, deploy and maintain changes to policy, practice and even physical architecture that are available to you. Dementia Australia’s handbook of inclusive Indigenous Aged Care design and following the recommendations from the 2018 Royal Commission into Aged Care and Quality Standards as a guide are two such ways to achieve that.

Hire with diversity in mind

The more you include staff as representatives of inclusion and inclusive policy at work, the more you walk the walk for your residents. This includes taking advantage of inclusion within traineeships and apprentice-style positions.

Review your communication assets

A lot of training is subconscious when it comes to bias. If your marketing material and training assets are incredibly white, straight and able-bodied, you reinforce cultural bias accidentally. Take the time to review how and what you communicate to your staff, clients and the wider community. Freelancers such as Unashamedly Creative, Craig Mack, Carly Findlay and Cal Chikwendu can help in this regard.

Apply for accreditation

By going through the process of meeting Rainbow Tick certification or other forms of inclusion-based certification can help raise the bar and give you a recognisable and respected symbol to display within marginalised communities.

Need help shaping inclusive palliative care and aged care policy? Get in touch now!   


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