May 23, 2022

National Palliative Care Week: It’s your right

National Palliative Care Week (NPCW) 22 – 28 May, seeks to raise awareness about the rights of all Australians to access high-quality palliative care when and where they need it.

Acknowledging that palliative care is a universal human right, this year’s theme seeks to broaden perceptions, understanding and appreciation of palliative care, demonstrating its role in supporting the physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs of people living with a life-limiting illness, their families and their care team.

Timely access to palliative care has a number of benefits for people with a life-limiting illness, and supports them to continue doing the things that are most important to them, alongside their friends and family.

“Palliative care is available to people with a serious and life-limiting illness and their families, to assist in managing their symptoms, improve their quality of life and help them to live as well as possible, for as long as possible,” said Dr Alison Giles, Medical Director of Palliative Care.

Alison says that palliative care clinicians and services have a deep understanding of the difficult situations people near the end of their life or with a life-limiting illness often face.

“They can be instrumental in balancing a variety of perspectives and incorporating the psychological, social, and spiritual concerns of patients, their families and the staff caring for them. They are also there to support the loved ones of people near the end of their life and help them live through their grief and bereavement.”

The Northern Palliative Care Unit (PCU) aims to support our patients and their families in a variety of ways.

Stuart is one patient who has needed several PCU admissions in recent months, and it has been hard for him to be away from his home, and his beloved pets, including Dalmatian, Penny.

With the support of Stuart’s sister, Karen, the team was able to arrange for Penny to spend time with Stuart in PCU, where she won over the staff and kept a close watch over her best friend.

Prior to being discharged, Stuart told the PCU team, “the treatment I’ve received here has been excellent. The staff are so compassionate, I’ve really enjoyed being able to have a laugh with them.”

Karen agreed, stating, “you don’t just treat the patient here, you’re helping the entire family.”

Stuart and Penny
Stuart and Penny with Joanna Chan (CNS), Julius Quiring (NUM) and Dr Alan Corkery (HMO)

We were also privileged recently to host the wedding of Wendy and Roy, after a rapid decline in Wendy’s health necessitated admission to PCU and left only a short window of opportunity for this significant event.

With the support of pastoral care worker, Melanie Moore, arrangements were urgently made for Wendy and Roy’s special day. Their intimate ceremony took place in the PCU, attended by their two young boys, just one day before Wendy died.

Planning is underway for another big milestone for our Palliative Care Service – the inpatient PCU will be transitioning from its current location at Epping Gardens into a new, dedicated ward at Northern Hospital.

We aim to continue providing outstanding care to our patients and their families by supporting direct admission for community palliative care patients who require an inpatient stay, improving access for existing Northern Health inpatients, and ensuring that we deliver a comprehensive approach to care that meets the full range  of our patients’ needs.

For more information about National Palliative Care Week, click here.

The intranet page for the Northern Health Palliative Care Service contains links, clinician resources, and information about our service.

Featured image shows Stuart, Penny and Karen