Community, Health Services,

Palliative care – everyone’s business

For some people, death is close.

It’s not an event many years down the track. It’s a few weeks or maybe a few months away.

For some, working with a person diagnosed with a life limiting illness and in palliative care is their chosen career.

So, when we hear the term ‘palliative care’ how much do we really understand of the term?

To begin with, most people might think that going into ‘palliative care’ means that they only have a couple of weeks left to live. That is not the case.

“Someone can be receiving palliative care for many months,” Manager of Palliative Care Consultancy Gippsland, Nadine Soutar said.

Palliative care helps a person who has been diagnosed with a life limiting illness to live as well as they can and ensure the highest quality of life by identifying and managing physical symptoms along with emotional, spiritual and social needs.

People of all ages can be referred to palliative care.

“Typically, palliative care services see patients diagnosed with but not limited to cancer, motor neurone disease and late-stage kidney or lung disease. Palliative care can be delivered alongside treatments given by other treating teams. It’s not automatically the case that treatment of the disease stops once someone is referred to palliative care,” Nadine said.

The Palliative Care Consultancy Gippsland team along with the Gippsland Region Palliative Care Consortium has been working with colleagues around the region to both educate the community about what palliative care is, and also encourage people to have discussions within family groups about the sort of care a person might prefer.

“There is palliative care support at Latrobe Regional Health, as well as 13 other sites across Gippsland ranging from Orbost to Bass Coast and Yarram to Neerim. Each one of them has a family centred approach that’s all about optimising the patient’s quality of life and supporting everyone close to that patient,” Manager of the Gippsland Region Palliative Care Consortium, Anny Byrne said.

They have been hosting screenings throughout the region of ‘Live the Life You Please’, a series of short films aimed at raising awareness about palliative care.

The films show a range of people, their families and loved ones taking control of their care with the assistance of palliative care teams across Australia.

“One of the themes is that palliative care is everyone’s business. Someone may be diagnosed with a life limiting illness but together with their loved ones, social network, treating team and palliative care input people can live their life as fully and as comfortably as possible. It’s about managing the condition and getting as much out of life as possible,” Anny said.

Referrals to palliative care can be made by GPs, other treating health practitioners, family members or the individual who has received the diagnosis of a life limiting illness.

“We’d always prefer an early referral to palliative care. This can prolong life and certainly supports a better quality of life. Getting to know the individual and their families over a longer period of time allows for better planning and consideration of the individual’s end of life wishes, supporting a better quality of life for the patient and experience for the family,” Nadine said.

More information about palliative care in Gippsland can be found at the Gippsland Region Palliative Care Consortium website.

The Live the Life you Choose films can be viewed on YouTube here.

Image: Members of the Palliative Care Consultancy Gippsland Team based at LRH.