Palliative care hospitalisations rising for Australians at end-of-life

New data has revealed that hospitalisations for palliative care are growing faster than all hospitalisations, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The figures also show that, before their death, a greater proportion of people are accessing palliative care services in hospital.

Between 2010–11 and 2014–15, palliative care-related hospitalisations rose by about 19%. This is greater than the 15% increase recorded for hospitalisations for all reasons over the same period.

‘Although it’s difficult to be definitive about the reasons for this rise, Australia’s growing and ageing population – paired with a rise in chronic and incurable illnesses – has broadened the type of patients requiring palliative care,’ said AIHW spokesperson Matthew James.

In 2014–15, about 155,600 people died in Australia, and almost half of these died as an admitted patient in hospital.

‘Of these, about 46% had been a palliative care patient during their final hospitalisation, up from 37% in 2010–11,’ Mr James said.

More than half (54%) of all palliative care-related hospitalisations in 2014–15 ended with the patient’s death.

Just over half of palliative care-related hospitalisations were for people aged 75 and over, and a similar proportion involved cancer as the main diagnosis.

This week is National Palliative Care Week and one of the key messages is the importance of talking to those closest to you about your end-of-life care wishes.

‘Today’s report shows us that more people are admitted to hospital requiring palliative care services, but we don’t know how many of these people would’ve preferred to have received palliative care services elsewhere,’ Mr James said.

Read some inspiring stories about individuals and families accessing palliative care.

Today’s information on admitted patient palliative care – as well as data on other aspects of Australia’s palliative care services – is available on the AIHW Palliative care services topic page.

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