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Too few talk end of life: peak

We make plans for our holidays, careers and families but a new study shows just how many Australians baulk when it comes to preparing for the inevitable – their death.

Only one in four Australians have had a conversation with their family about their end-of-life care wishes, despite a majority (74 per cent) believing they should plan ahead, according to the national peak body for palliative care.

The results from a survey of 2100 Australians, published by Palliative Care Australia (PCA) on Sunday, have revealed a disconnect between people's beliefs and actions, with a greater emphasis on financial planning than health.

One in four adults have no end-of-life documentation at all and only one in 10 have nominated a person to make healthcare decisions for them, while one in 20 say they have an advance care plan.

The most common types of end-of-life documentation were a will, power of attorney and life insurance.

"Talking about dying won't kill you," says PCA chief executive Liz Callaghan.

People are more likely to receive the care they want if they have thought about it in advance and in the event of their death, they can relieve some of the stress left on the loved ones left behind, she said.

The survey also showed a third of Australians found it difficult to talk about their wishes for care and would only do so with family if they brought up the topic first.

"It's almost like you're giving a gift to your family and friends," Callaghan said.

"I talk about death all the time. My kids roll their eyes.

"We went to Europe last year and we said this is what could happen. They said, 'yes mum'. But if something did happen they would know what to do."

While awareness raising among the public was important, the palliative care advocate says health professionals need to drive the change to get people planning their future.

GPs need to ask questions to help normalise discussions around it and give people a chance to prepare with confidence, she said.

"I will fear my end of life for sure, but if you can take some control then it's going to be easier."

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