Palliative care should not just be viewed as a way of nursing people through the last few days of life.

That’s the message from a group of advocates who argue it plays an essential and ongoing role in aged care.

Palliative Care Australia is making eight key recommendations to improve palliative care in nursing homes, which have been plagued by COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in Victoria and NSW.

PCA chair Meera Agar, professor of aged care at the University of Technology Sydney, said there is a belief that palliative care is limited to end-of-life care.

“This misconception means that many older Australians are not receiving the care they need to improve their quality of life, which in turn leads to poorer outcomes,” Prof Agar said.

The national peak industry body is calling on the state and federal government to make palliative care a priority.

Other recommendations include a reclassification of palliative care in line with the World Health Organisation’s definition, mandatory palliative care training for both health and aged care workers, and the appointment of a National Palliative Care Commissioner.

Chief executive Rohan Greenland said 36 per cent of all deaths in Australia come from residential aged care.

The number of permanent aged care residents with highly complex needs has also risen five-fold to 53 per cent in the past decade, he said, as Australia’s population continues to age.

“Governments and the aged care sector must acknowledge this reality by investing in palliative care and supporting workforce training,” Mr Greenland said.

PCA will host a webcast event on Friday, outlining its full recommendations and discussing issues facing palliative care amid the COVID-19 crisis.