Palliative Care

Palliative Care Matters, and talking about it, even more so.

Unfortunately, not everyone will have a chance to experience Palliative Care. But for those lucky enough to engage in the service there’s very rarely any regret, from those who are dying or the loved ones who are sharing the moment.

And if you’ve ever worked in the field, you’ll know the experience of those final days can be just as extraordinary for those in the position of care as it is for the families. National Palliative Care Week, 2019 is all about celebrating these opportunities and experiences on a large scale. To bring more awareness to the public around what and how and when one can engage in Palliative Care.

Death and dying is still too quiet a subject in our society. It is sad, because there’s no reason why it should be, because, spoiler: We all die.

Anyone who’s worked in or experienced palliative care most likely speaks of death very differently to the rest. Because with good palliative care dying no longer becomes a frightful experience for the person going through it, and more importantly I guess, the ones supporting that person can respond better to the departure knowing their loved one’s peaceful death is being considered in such detail.

National Palliative Care Week this year used the theme, “What Matters Most”, an attitude that is a very positive byproduct of going through palliative care model. It was very apparent throughout the week from much of the dialogue, that what really matters most around death and dying is that we continue to share stories.

Palliative Care Victoria harnessed the theme beautifully, launching their “Moments That Matter” campaign at the beginning of the week. The campaign explored personal accounts of Palliative Care from the carers, the families and the patients themselves.

One of the most beautiful stories in the Moments That Matter campaign was from Jock. After having retired in 2006, Jock’s prostate cancer was discovered in 2009 and he and his family engaged in Palliative Care in 2017. For Jock, like so many others, his life has not been extended, however, been given a much greater value because of the involvement of Palliative Care. On the Moments That Matter website, Jock recounts his experience and the great work of those working in the space.

“I appreciate their intuitive empathy and gentle style. You know they care about you and they do it brilliantly. They provide helpful guidance and that has improved my situation quite considerably. The nurses help with my pain management and physical well-being and liaise with my GP. The counsellor supports my spiritual well-being. They’ve helped me to maintain a positive and pragmatic outlook.”

Jock will die. And his family will experience grief. That’s sad. But it’s sadder to think that so many don’t get to experience the moments that matter at the end of life the way Jock and others in Palliative Care do. Which is why sharing these stories and promoting the service is so important. And not only during the one week a year when all eyes are on Palliative Care. Death and dying need to be a topic we approach before it’s a pressing issue. That’s when services like palliative care are going to be taken advantage of the way they should be.

Rob Hill, a Palliative Care volunteer in Hobart told The Mercury he wants to see the taboo lifted off death the way it has been done with sex over the past few decades––to our benefit.

“We’re much more comfortable discussing sex than we were 20 to 30 years ago, and as a result, enjoy record low rates of STI and teenage pregnancy,” Rob says.

“We can do the same with death. As a society, we remain grossly uneducated when it comes to death, dying and grief. Too many people are also still completely unaware of their loved ones’ wishes for their end of life.”

So true. And sharing our personal stories are going to be the best way to spark those conversations, particularly us who have worked in or experienced Palliative Care. Thankfully it seems our National Palliative Care organisations have the right creatives behind them to help promote the stories that are going to keep the general public engaged. It’s a great start!

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