NURSE Vivian Geyer has cared for people approaching the end of their lives, or living with a chronic illness, for 19 years.
It’s the stories her patients and their loved ones have shared that have made her work as part of the Bendigo Health Integrated Palliative Care Services team memorable.
“It is just a special time to be able to support people,” Mrs Geyer said.
This week, staff and volunteers celebrated National Palliative Care Week with an afternoon tea.
Improving quality of life is the aim of palliative care, as defined by the World Health Organisation.
It intends “neither to hasten or postpone death”, and provides “prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification...and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.”
Hospitalisations related to palliative care are growing faster than all hospitalisations, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data states.
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Almost half of the 155,600 people who died in Australia in 2014-15 were admitted patients in hospital.
Of those, almost half were palliative care patients.
Though the data shows more people are being admitted to hospital for palliative care services, AIHW spokesman Matthew James said it was not known how many of those patients would have preferred to have received services elsewhere.
Encouraging people to discuss their options is part of National Palliative Care Week’s aims.
More than 350,000 Australians are cared for by aged care services.
Bendigo Health Integrated Palliative Care Services manager Alison Smith said aged care was a vital part of palliative care, ensuring collaboration between the sectors.
She encouraged people entering aged care to talk with their loved ones and health care team about their end-of-life wishes and develop a plan for when they need palliative care support.
“Knowing what is important to you will reduce their burden at a difficult time and ensure you get the care you desire,” Mrs Smith said.
A discussion starter, called Dying to Talk, is available from the website www.dyingtotalk.org.au/
“IT doesn’t feel like 17 years,” Helen Bolte said.
But that’s how long she has been volunteering in palliative care at Bendigo Health.
Mrs Bolte was among the staff and stalwarts in attendance at Tuesday’s afternoon tea, an opportunity to acknowledge and thank those working in palliative care for the difference they make to people’s lives.
August marks 12 years since fellow volunteer Lorraine Castles became involved in the unit.
She’s known people who attend palliative care for help to manage chronic health conditions, then go back home. For other patients, it’s about a positive end-of-life experience.
“It’s an absolute privilege to spend time with people at this stage of their lives,” Mrs Castles said.
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