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The views and opinions expressed in our blog series are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.
Palliative Care is active care that aims to relieve suffering and promote comfort when cure is no longer possible. This care provides physical, psychological, social, emotional and spiritual support for patients, families and their friends. The Southern Adelaide Palliative Services (SAPS) is an award winning consultative service providing care for people with a life limiting illness in southern metropolitan Adelaide. Raising funds to support services helps to improve the lives of people affected by life limiting illness and their families. Dying affects us all.
I was appointed as the Clinical Nurse of Daw House in September 2002. I remember my first impressions of the place. As an outsider coming from a brand new hospital I found the aesthetic to be something that required a complete overhaul, but I was greeted by an enthusiastic nurse who said to me, “I know what you are thinking, this place is amazing!”
No, that is not what I was thinking. But I can tell you that within half an hour of commencing my first shift in Daw House I witnessed something that I thought health care had lost. I witnessed holistic patient care like I had never seen before.
The aim of modern palliative care, whether provided by generalist, or specialist service providers, is to support palliative patients to live and die within the context of their lives, in the setting of their choice, with symptom control and a pattern of care that is supportive of patients’ caregivers.
Most Australian palliative care patients prefer to be cared for at home and the majority want to die at home, though only about 16% of Australians achieve that wish . While there is no nationally consistent data on the volume of community services providing palliative care, it is known to be limited .
In May 2014, Carers Australia published a discussion paper, Dying at home: Preferences and roles for unpaid carers. It seems fitting that during National Carers Week we recognise the contribution that carers make to people who are dying. Most people wish to be cared for and die at home with the people they love and in familiar surroundings. Remaining at home is made much more likely where there is someone, or a group of people, who is willing to provide care and support for the dying person. Family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours all have taken on a caring role.
August 8th is Dying to Know Day – a campaign that encourages people across the country to engage in meaningful conversation around death, dying and loss by hosting events in their local area. This is its 5th year running and it has clocked up over 403 individual events!
So why on earth should we talk about death?!
Many cultures around the world have a different approach to death. In many countries, people generally die at home surrounded by their community, it is an important time for a community to gather and support each other. Death is not a scary thing to talk about because people have seen the process over their lifetime, they are familiar with the rituals and traditions so they know exactly what to expect and how to respond.