A few weeks ago I posted about finding gratitude in unlikely places.
My experiences with a medical team in Truro have illustrated those thoughts precisely. No one wants to use the services of a palliative care team but I have to say, once in that position, I feel blessed to have access to these people.
How many doctors do you know who will come to your house and meet with your family to discuss what to expect on a very difficult road ahead? How many will hug you on the way out the door? It seems cruel to have first lost one parent to a long battle with cancer and now, less than five years later, to be facing the same thing, but having these people with me has helped ease the journey so very much.
Just knowing there is a nurse at the other end of a cell phone at all hours, or that there is a central plan for medical care that is always accessible should medications need adjusting or a hospital visit necessary, or having a social worker to whom I can turn even thought I am not the patient is calming.
What is a little less calming is knowing not all people have access to the same services. In Canada, estimates show that between 15% and 30% of people have access to palliative care services. Currently chronic disease accounts for 70% of Canadian deaths. Many of those people are needlessly dying in hospital when a strong palliative care team could not only ease their mind and their suffering, but it could reduce the burden on the health care system substantially. Annually 180,000 people die in hospital each year and with the aging baby boomers that number is expected to increase by at least a third.
In Nova Scotia care varies depend on region. In some places medication is covered, in others it’s not. Truro has a fantastic team that includes doctors, nurses, and other professionals but other areas make do with just a doctor and no nurses for front line care. It’s not just Nova Scotia with such spotty coverage. Other provinces have the same disparities. As someone who is cursed and blessed to have a second go around with this palliative care team I can categorically state that all Canadians should have access to quality palliative care services. Dying at home in comfort is far less stressful for both the patient and the family. Add to that the economic argument for avoiding costly and possibly lengthy hospital stays and it raises the question of why others don’t have the same access.
Death is a taboo subject in our culture and it takes a very special person to, not only care for the dying, but to be constantly steeped in all things relating to death. The compassion and care these people provide give comfort to people when they are the most vulnerable. So, thank you to Dr. Henderson and Ann and Lisa and all the wonderful people on the Colchester Palliative Care team. You make a difficult burden easier to bear.
Here’s a great link to the Hospice group that works with the Truro Palliative Care team.