What is Palliative Care?
Some people are confused about what palliative care means. The world health organisation definition is: “Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.”
In general, people will get referred to palliative care when their life expectancy is 12 months or less. It does not necessarily mean that they are about to die, palliative care is there to take care of symptoms such as pain, nausea, shortness of breath; assist with provision of services or equipment so people can remain at home for as long as possible. Basically Palliative Care is trying to make someone’s quality of life as good as possible for whatever time they have left.
Palliative care is not just for people dying with cancer, but for people with end stage heart, lung liver, kidney and neurological disease.
Who provides Palliative Care in the Midwest?
Geraldton and the Midwest is fortunate to have an excellent palliative care service. This service is made up of a team of nurses and a social worker, coordinated by Ms Robyn Ellis. There is a general practitioner, Dr Tonya Constantine, that works with the team once/week and also a visiting Palliative Care specialist, Dr Doug Bridge, who visits the Midwest once a month. The team provides home visits to patients to assess their symptoms such as pain, and make changes to treatment in conjunction with the patient’s doctor. They also work closely with allied health, the Midwest cancer team and service providers to provide community based care to patients. They liaise with the patients General Practitioner as their input is essential to provision of palliative care. They will also facilitate admission to the hospice unit at St John of God Hospital if patients need to be admitted to get symptoms under control or for end of life care.
How do I know when the time is right to refer my loved one to Palliative Care?
The good news is that your General Practitioner (GP) will work closely with the Midwest palliative care team to provide care for you or your loved one. Your GP will refer to the palliative care team when they think it is appropriate, but referrals can also come from other specialists, nurses and family members The palliative care team also provides service to regional areas in the Midwest as well, so if you live outside of Geraldton, you can also receive palliative care services.
The palliative care team can be contacted through the Geraldton Regional Hospital or through a referral from your GP, Oncologist, Cancer Nurse or other Caregiver.
The palliative care team would prefer that a patient is referred earlier rather than later so that there is time to build a relationship with the patient and the family prior to end of life, and also maximise quality of life.
For more information visit palliativecare.org.au
Or try this site to help start talking about what is important for you at end of life: http://dyingtotalk.org.au/discussion-starter-online/ or http://www.dyingtotalk.org.au/card-game/