How do we ensure good palliative care in these strange times?

I like strange as a word. It is non-judgmental, it says this is different, unfamiliar, something new to be navigated.

However, we need to put a few things on the table: actively putting strategies in place to retain the rights and manage the needs of the dying, the suffering and the ill.

In the era of Covid-19, we’ll need to adjust our expectations of how to companion the dying. It is important that this does not involve compromises that could lead to their unnecessary suffering.

Much of the philosophy around Good Grief! has been around improving our individual capacity and access, so that we can companion the very elderly, even in aged care facilities, as they enter the last stages of their life.

But in the immediate future, many of us will not have access to our elderly and/or dying, and those in the ‘grey space’ in between, since we are staying away from their homes to protect them from infection and in many cases our management of this has been taken out of our hands because their facilities are in lockdown.


This is extremely challenging, especially for those who have loved ones whose dementia or other conditions prohibit the use of technology, even basic technology such as a television or telephone.

We are assured that we will have access in a palliative situation or if someone is close to dying. But how will this be assessed?

We will be following advice and information by Palliative Care Australia and other sources. To begin, the following paper placed on it’s website today addresses important questions around the continual delivery of palliative care, despite the emergence of Covid-19 and it’s destabilising effect on the health care system.

This paper by Townsville specialists addresses the important questions around the continual delivery of palliative care, despite the emergence of Covid-19 and it’s destabilising effect on the health care system.

While the following information addresses a different group, older Australians who are living in the community but not dying, it could be helpful, since many dying patients, although not elderly, will have parallel vulnerabilities,

Should the person you would otherwise be companioning as they reach the end-point of their lives be confined to an aged care facility, the aged care home will have strict procedures you will need to respect and follow.

These restrictions are available here: http://www. advice-for-public-gatherings-and-visits-to-vulnerable-groups.

“Some aged care providers are asking all visitors not to visit centres in order to protect the older people living in the facility. In these cases, there is usually a process the provider has in place for exceptions, such as when a loved one is very unwell or in a palliative stage,” it notes.

“Call the facility to understand what processes are in place. If you have concerns with the centre’s actions, contact the Older Person’s Advocacy Network on 1800 700 600 or the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 1800 951 822.”

To get your latest update on Covid-19 more generally, go to:

Palliative Care Australia have released a 2020 paper: Grief, Bereavment and Mental Health. Dr Norman Swan features on on a video accompanying the paper’s launch : The impact of COVID-19 on the delivery of palliative care during 2020.

Leave a Reply