Report: Australians need to re-think end-of-life care

Date: Sep 29, 2014

A recent report has highlighted the state of Australia's end-of-life care, with the recommendation that people ensure their wishes are fulfilled at this time, through tools like a living will.

The study from the Grattan Institute found that there is a serious disconnect between the way that people want to die, and the actual situation of their passing. A vast majority (70 per cent) of Australians want to die at home, but only 14 per cent are actually dying in their house.

Instead, many Australians are passing away in hospitals (54 per cent) and rest homes (32 per cent). The report suggested that one of the main reasons for this disconnect is that people are not speaking up about the way they wish to die, creating a situation where decisions are made on their behalf. 

At the same time, other developed countries are doing a far better job of providing end-of-life care which is in keeping with an individual's wishes. Countries like New Zealand and the United States have recorded more than twice the rates of home deaths, compared to Australia. These countries have also been able to offer a much greater degree of in-home care for elderly patients.

The figures from the Grattan Institute come on top of another recent survey from the Council on the Ageing NSW, which found that only 20.6 per cent of respondents have discussed end-of-life decisions with a lawyer, making it harder for individuals to have their wishes enforced on their behalf.

One of the authors of the study, Professor Hal Swerissen, pointed to the advantage that people now have when planning the end of their lives.

"More than at any time in history, most people die when they are old, and are more likely than past generations to know when in the near future they are going to die," said Prof Swerissen.

"That gives us a great opportunity to help people plan to die well - but we're not taking it."

For individuals who want to have greater control over how they pass away, it is important to draft a living will with a wills and estates lawyer. They will be able to ensure that your wishes are acted upon and that you will be able to clearly lay out your wishes at this time. 

A wills and estates lawyer will also be able to help with your estate planning, to help prevent disputes arising once you have passed away.