No one gets left behind - How palliative and hospice care can help your family
Being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease can bring about a wave of emotions for a patient and their family. And while navigating these emotions can be challenging, healthcare workers like Palliative Care Nurse Annatjie Grundling provides support to families across the province.
With World Hospice & Palliative Care Day being marked on 9 October 2021 under the theme, Leave no-one behind - equity in access to palliative care, Nurse Grundling says it’s important for families to know that they’re not alone and that support is available to them after a diagnosis.
“We must ensure that everyone has access to palliative and hospice care. These services are important as many people may not know what to do or what to expect once they’re diagnosed with a life-threatening disease or a chronic illness. It’s okay if you don’t know everything, but we need to learn about the early and late symptoms of an illness and how to deal with it in order to support our loved ones. I have found that patients’ families are so grateful for advice, as they often don’t know how to support their loved ones. We are here to guide families and patients who need palliative care support.”
WHAT IS PALLIATIVE AND HOSPICE CARE?
Palliative care is specialised healthcare for people who are living with a serious illness. Through the service, healthcare workers aim to improve the quality of life for both the patient and their family.
The World Health Organisation states palliative and hospice care is required for a wide range of diseases, including chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, AIDS and diabetes. Many other conditions may require palliative and hospice care, including kidney failure, chronic liver disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, neurological disease, dementia, congenital anomalies and drug-resistant tuberculosis. Children may also require palliative care services.
The key difference between palliative care and hospice care is that palliative services can be provided at any stage of an illness while hospice care helps patients and their families to manage the end-of-life stage, when curative treatment is not beneficial or desired.
These services can improve the quality of life for both patients and their families by ensuring that families have a better understanding of their treatment options, while also reducing lengthy hospital visits.
SERVICES: WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT
Palliative and hospice care can be offered to residents at home or within a health facility, like a hospital. These services are provided by professionals and lay caregivers in patients’ homes.
Physical, psychosocial and spiritual care is offered to a patient and their family. These services aim to provide relief to patients and their families and consists of regular palliative assessment by a suitably qualified nurse, who supports the family and lay caregivers. A clinician will assess whether home-based care or care within a healthcare facility is appropriate.
Kuils River resident Adolf Treu is one resident who has been supported by the palliative care team from Tygerberg Hospice. Adolf, who has diabetes, was hospitalised and underwent amputation surgery a week after losing his mother. It was a difficult time for his family, but the 68-year-old says the support from the palliative care made a difference. “I am very grateful to the nurses and team who have supported me and cared for me.”
His brother, Melvin, has thanked palliative care workers for their support. “The support from the palliative care team has definitely helped us and they’re still here to help us. We also lost our mother last year and he cared for her at the time. A week before his admission to hospital, our mother died. It was a difficult time, but we’re grateful to the palliative care team for all of their support.”
Like Adolf, many palliative and hospice care patients are cared for in their homes, often by family members, with support from community health workers or hospice care workers, as well as the local day hospital team.
GETTING HELP FOR YOUR LOVED ONES
Western Cape Government Health is committed to compassionate dignified care from the beginning to the end of life. Provincial Palliative Care Lead, Juanita Arendse, explains: “In accordance with the principles of universal health coverage, this implies that all citizens have access to promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative care and in-so-doing ensuring the human right to health. We encourage all residents to seek support when a loved one requires palliative and hospice care. The services are aimed at ensuring compassionate care for patients and their families and offers the relief of symptoms and suffering for all.”
If you or your loved ones require palliative or hospice care, please speak to a healthcare worker at your nearest Western Cape Government Health facility. Our teams are ready to support you!