PALLIATIVE care is a support network which involves managing pain and other symptoms by providing social, emotional and often spiritual support for patients. We focus on helping our patients to achieve the best possible quality of life as their illness progresses.
The starting point in palliative care is always the person, and for this reason family and friends are often involved and care is provided in a range of locations, often including their own home.
We offer many services and support including from GPs, nurses, other health and social care professionals, and the wider community beyond formal services. What we are really aiming to do is to create connections, through day services and respite carers. This is vital as it helps to reduce isolation and supports people to plan for care and carers.
This primary focus on helping to raise the quality of life for those faced with life-limiting or threatening diseases is a particularly important distinction in the context of Ireland’s population demographics.
PALLIATIVE CARE IRELAND
According to a 2015 study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Ireland has the fastest rising need for palliative care in Europe due to its rapidly ageing population.
Eighty per cent of the deaths recorded between 2007 and 2011 in Ireland were from conditions recognised as having associated palliative care needs. This compares to 63 per cent in the UK and 50 per cent in Australia. The Irish Cancer Society states that by 2020 1 in 2 of us will develop cancer in our lifetime, due in part to the ageing population and lifestyle.
This only serves to further highlight the increasing importance of having not just adequate, but exceptional palliative care providers in Ireland.
Similarly, advanced chronic conditions and neurodegenerative diseases are rising exponentially along with our ageing population. New models of palliative care will be required to address these trends.
However, the 2015 in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management study outlined substantial financial challenges to meeting these needs. It found that current funding levels are running at only half the required amount. Given the clear evidence of the benefits offered by a substantive palliative care facility, funding is an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
The economic case for investment in palliative care is well-founded and evidence based.
Recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that patients with terminal cancer, who are referred to palliative care at time of diagnosis, live longer than patients who just receive conventional oncology treatment from time of diagnosis.
Palliative care is increasingly linked with higher quality of life and lower costs. By prioritising fewer and shorter hospital stays, less demanding treatments, and increased hospice use, it offers a viable and financially sound option within the context of healthcare reform.
‘Palliative Care’ can spark images of hospices and hospitals for a lot of people and while hospice and hospital care is within our remit, we also offer advice and work closely with GPs, nurses, other health/social care professionals, as well as the wider community. Marymount supports people and their families who are living at home with serious illness, including residents in local community hospitals or nursing homes.
In 2018, the total number of new Patients Referred to Community Palliative Care was 1,368. The average number of patients seen by Marymount per month was consistently over 500. The total number of home visits reached 9,462, while the total number of phone calls was in excess of 40,000.
This community based service actively highlights another key goal of palliative care. It underlines our aim to create connections, through day services and respite care. This is an integral component in our overall strategy as it helps to reduce isolation and supports people to plan for care and the carers/family.
PALLIATIVE CARE WEEK 2019
This week aims to raise awareness of the difference palliative care can make to people with a life-limiting illness or condition and to careers and families throughout the island of Ireland.
‘Surrounding You With Support’ is the theme of this year’s Palliative Care Week which runs from Sunday September 8 to Saturday September 14 and we are calling on everyone to get involved, share your story and raise awareness by using #pallcareweek on social media, and visit www.thepalliativehub.com to find out what is happening near you.