Advance Care Planning Australia (ACPA) is a small national program funded by the Australian Government. The program is committed to empowering older Australians to have choice and control over their future medical treatment decisions and end-of-life care. Quality advance care planning (ACP) enables people to appoint a substitute decision-maker, document their values and/or preferences for future treatment. ACP is becoming increasingly important to Australia’s ageing population and aged care services providing them care.
Evidence demonstrates there is limited community knowledge and awareness regarding ACP and advance care directives (ACDs), and their importance in future medical treatment decision-making, quality palliative care and end-of-life care. There was a need to reframe messaging from death and dying, to promoting quality of life, values and choices.
During 2017-19, ACPA developed or improved an innovative range of services and products for older Australians and the aged care industry. ACPA provides a comprehensive national website and legal resources hub, a National ACP Advisory Service (freecall), ACPA Learning and modules hub, and prevalence study engaging aged care services.
During 2018-19, ACPA delivered a new and innovative initiative – the National ACP Week campaign. ACP Week aims to increase awareness and uptake of ACP and change attitudes towards end-of-life. In 2018, the initiative reached 1.6M and involved 107 events throughout all jurisdictions. In 2019, another successful campaign reached 2.1M+ and involved 159 events. ACP Week Ambassadors were from a range of leading and collaborating organisations including National Seniors Australia, Dementia Australia and Palliative Care Australia.
How it came together
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In 2017 and 2018, ACPA conducted a national ACD prevalence study for older Australians 65+ years. Seventy- nine aged care facilities willingly participated in the studies.
In 2018, the prevalence of ACD documentation in the general aged population was only 25 per cent. For those accessing residential aged care facilities, prevalence was 38 per cent.
For those with dementia only 32% had any form of ACD. For those with severe disability only 37 per cent had any form of ACD. Of concern, 30 per cent of ACDs in residential aged care facilities were incorrectly completed.
Since evidence suggests that 50 per cent of people will be unable to make their own end-of-life decisions, improving the awareness and uptake of quality ACP and documentation is vital.
ACPA’s data clearly demonstrates that Australians want more information about ACP and ACDs. Annually, ACPA unique website visitors have more than doubled since 2016.
Between 2017-18 to 2018-19, ACPA’s National Advisory Service experienced a 460 per cent increase in callers. Between 2017-18 to 2018-19, the ACPA Facebook reach doubled, getting to approximately 660,000 and engaging approximately 42,000. This increasing engagement by consumers, workforce and services indicated a desire for more information and awareness raising.
ACPA utilised its existing National ACP Engagement Advisory Group to seek advice and guidance from leading organisations regarding the development and implementation of a new National ACP Week Campaign.
The aim of National ACP Week was to raise consumer awareness of and engagement with ACP and to promote quality of life, values and choice in healthcare decisions.
The National ACP Week campaign involved comprehensive consultation, scoping, planning, defining of activities and deliverables, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation, and reporting and learning.
The inaugural National ACP Week involved a launch by the then Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt MP. It included the launch of the ACP Aged Care Guide for the aged care industry. Ministerial engagement attracted significant media interested, with coverage on Channel Nine News that was syndicated across Australia and local media channels.
The National ACP Week campaign achieved comprehensive consumer engagement across Australia by reaching approximately 1.6M+ people in 2018 and 2M+ in 2019.
In 2018, 122 events were held across all jurisdictions. In 2019, the number of events grew to 159 with many involving aged care service providers.
The ACP Week unique webpage views were 42,756 and 41,389, respectively in 2018 and 2019. In 2018, there was a 383 per cent increase in calls to the National Advisory Service and the Facebook community grew by 61 per cent.
More than 3500 copies of the ACP Aged Care Guide were distributed to aged care service providers and staff.