Palliative Care

For many people the word hospice may be a frightening concept, a place where people go when they are dying and don’t come home. However, hospice can be a resting place on a journey at any stage of a person’s illness, when that person has palliative care needs.

The hospice movement has grown into a worldwide movement that has challenged many in the approach to death and dying over the years.

The business of our lives in the realm of hospice or palliative care is to strive to offer that resting place on a journey, offering dignity, respect, peace, freedom from pain and a sense of hope in what may seem to be a hopeless situation for many.

Death is seen as a natural part of life. Individuals and their families, friends or carers are supported at the time of diagnosis, through treatment, when recurrence occurs or when the diagnosis is made that the disease is non-treatable and palliation is required. To palliate means to cloak, to alleviate.

People are encouraged to make choices regarding treatment; choices is where they are cared for; for example at home supported by their families, doctor, district nurses, Macmillan nurses and social service teams. Care can be given in hospital, care homes, hospice and day hospice. Volunteers play a great role in supporting people.

Supporting the whole person and the family situation is a main part of the work. The aim is to meet the needs both physical, emotional, social, spiritual and culturally. These needs are assessed, identified and goals are set to try to meet these needs.

This is done with the expertise of the multi-disciplinary team endeavouring to try to meet the needs of the individual.

One in six people can develop cancer at any stage in their life. It is known that nearly half of all people who enter a hospice return home again.

The hospice meets the needs of people with other life threatening illnesses like HIV, AIDS, Motor Neurone Disease, Cardiac Failure and Lung Disease.

Mercy Sisters have a part to play in hospice work, revealing the compassionate face of Christ to those in need. It may be the warm smile, the listening ear, the gentle touch that enables the person to feel loved, wanted, cared for. The Mercy of Christ in action.

To be relieved of pain, anxiety, other symptoms associated with the disease brings peace and dignity for the person and for the families involved who live with the memories of this person, their loved one on a journey from life to death.

Hospices can be a place where a person receives spiritual care, pain and symptom control, counselling and support, advice on services available or benefits, complementary therapies, art and music therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

A person can experience loss at any stage of the illness – loss of a job, a limb, changes in body image, knowledge that they are leaving people behind they love, financial losses, an inability to carry out the normal daily activities of life, loss of faith in God. They can be supported in their journey through these losses. Their families are also supported prior to death and in their bereavement.

As a woman said recently, “I have nursed my husband at home as long as I could. I am exhausted and I now need the support of those in the hospice who can assist me, to journey with my husband in his final stages”. Another person said, “I know that help is there at the end of the phone if I have a problem or I need an answer to a question. That gives me peace when the going gets tough.”

Mercy in palliative care is about compassion, journeying with and empowering a person to journey from life to death, with dignity, peace, living with what might not be a great quantity of life, but with quality of life. Mercy is certainly the ‘business of our lives’ when we are assisting in these ways.