Palliative Care

published in L’Angolo della terza eta, La Fiamma, 20 May 2013

For the last few articles we have been following the story of 89 year old Concetta and her daughter Anna as they do their best to plan ahead for Concetta’s final years of life. Too often this type of planning is not done and families are forced to make decisions for an elderly loved one who is no longer capable of doing this for themselves. Sometimes family members are not certain of their loved one’s preferences or are unable to agree with each other about key end of life decisions, including decisions about palliative care. Concetta, in the early stages of dementia, was fortunate to be able to express her wishes before it was too late.

Palliative care is care provided for people of all ages who have a life limiting illness, with little or no prospect of cure, and for whom the primary treatment goal is quality of life. This type of care uses a holistic approach – managing pain and other symptoms, whilst also addressing the physical, emotional, cultural, social and spiritual needs of the person, their family and their carers. It focuses on “living” well until death. The World Health Organization (2003) states that palliative care:

  • provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
  • affirms life and regards dying as a normal process
  • intends neither to hasten nor postpone death
  • integrates the psychological and spiritual needs of patient care
  • offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death
  • offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement
  • uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated
  • will enhance quality of life and may also positively influence the course of illness, and
  • is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.

Palliative care can be provided in the home or in settings such as hospices, palliative care units, hospitals and aged care homes. (www.agedcareaustralia.gov.au)

It is well known that most people, including Italian Australians, are reluctant to discuss matters relating to death and dying. For this reason the Australian government has identified palliative care as a priority topic for aged care community health information dissemination. The Australian government provides funding for the delivery of information sessions to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities through the Aged Care Service Improvement and Healthy Ageing Grant (ACSIHAG) Program.

During the week of May 19-25 it is National Palliative Care Week. The theme for National Palliative Care Week 2013 is “Palliative Care… everyone’s business”.

According to Palliative care Australia, “palliative care is an issue that will affect all of us at some point in our lives, whether as a patient, carer, family member, neighbour or friend. For this reason we are calling 2013 the year to make palliative care everyone’s business. To ensure that we all have quality care at the end of life, and are able to live and die well, we all need to take responsibility for making this happen”.

Palliative Care Australia is the peak national organisation representing the interests and aspirations of all who share the ideal of quality care at the end of life. Specialist palliative care providers have specialist knowledge, skills and expertise in the care of patients – and their families, carers and communities – who are living with and dying from a terminal condition. Quality care at the end of life is realised when strong networks exist between specialist palliative care providers and other care providers and the community – working together to meet the needs of all people. For more information visit www.palliativecare.org.au

For more information about palliative care speak to your local doctor.

Co.As.It. is planning an information session on “Wills and Power of Attorney” to be delivered by an Italian speaking lawyer. If you are interested in receiving information about this, please contact Co.As.it. on 9564 0744