Thursday, 22 May 2014

Palliative Care

It’s timely that as I write this message, it is National Palliative Care Week. In recent months I have seen the passing of several people who have been a part of my life over many years and several have had long-term illness. The efforts of the palliative care teams cannot be downplayed and I know my friends have been in excellent hands as their journey’s progressed.

The importance of making known one’s end-of-life wishes is not to be taken lightly. Similarly, as our relatives and indeed, ourselves, age, making sure we are best cared for in our ‘twilight’ years is of upmost importance. This may include nominating someone as Power of Attorney and / or Guardianship should we at some stage become unable to make appropriate decisions about our own care.

In recent months, I have been caring for an elderly relative who has up until recently, been highly functioning. A bout of illness has changed that and I’ve been working within a challenging system to get the right help at the right time to ensure my relative is well cared for and appropriately managed. She lives alone and has the usual things to deal with along the way – bills, maintenance and chores, to name a few pressures.

Whilst very independent, she has refused in-home assistance, which I know would make her life a little easier, and provide some extra company, but to no avail. Unfortunately, she is not currently well enough to stay in her home, though I am hopeful she will recover enough to be able to return soon. Without an appointed Power of Guardianship / Attorney in place when she was well, her future medical care and management of finances, etc., is of some concern. I’m sure I am not alone in my apprehension as to the future of a loved one.

No matter what our situation, it’s important to ensure we have a plan for managing our future medical and other needs either from a palliative care perspective or gradual decline as a result of ageing. This is especially important if we are living with significant medical conditions. Perhaps National Palliative Care Week is a wake-up reminder for us all. We don’t know what’s in our future, no matter how well we take care of ourselves and it might be a good time to look ahead and see what we can do as individuals to best protect ourselves.


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Cycling identification benefits

Most of us have wonderful memories of riding our pushbikes as youngsters, exploring the far-reaches of the local neighbourhood and often doing what we thought at the time were death-defying tricks and stunts.

For many, the freedom that comes with cycling has become more than a hobby that wears off over time as we get older. The warmer weather, combined with the recent Tour Down Under in Adelaide is sure to have encouraged a number of Australians to dust of their trusty bike, slip into some lycra and get their pedal to the metal. For me, it’s a gentler way to exercise than pounding the pavement!

The die-hard cyclists among us are out on the streets at all hours to get their freedom fix – and it’s not uncommon to see one or more riding as early as sunrise, late as sunset and most hours in between.

But the freedom that comes with cycling can also be a risk too. Many riders opt to leave their identification at home because on a bike, a wallet or purse becomes a bulky accessory. Others don’t want their ride impacted by annoying phone calls, so they don’t take their mobile phone either.

It is a sobering fact that on average, 35 riders are killed and more than 9500 are injured in Australia each year. In 2013, there were 46 deaths, and 15 in NSW alone. We are all very aware of the ‘conventional’ road toll count on a daily basis, but most of us are unaware of this level of death and injury that impacts cyclists.

Earlier this year in Queensland a male cyclist was found unconscious after colliding with a wheelie bin. Two cyclists were knocked off their bikes and left lying by the roadside with serious injuries in separate hit-and-run crashes on the same day in Sydney in January. In South Australia there have been a number of incidents where a cyclist has been found injured and unconscious on the roadside.

Every state and territory can offer similar stories when it comes to these vulnerable road users.

With no form of identification on these riders it has sometimes been difficult for emergency responders to know who they are and what (if any) medical conditions they might have. On the flip side, families are left anxiously waiting for news of their missing loved one who is well overdue in returning from a ride, and they don’t know where to start looking for them.

That dilemma is seeing a growing number of cyclists choosing to become MedicAlert members because they see value in the identification benefits offered – especially if the unfortunate should happen and they fall, or are knocked off their bike while riding alone and especially if they are knocked unconscious.

If we really thought hard about the many risks in life then most of us probably wouldn’t leave home for fear of never returning. For me, it is about understanding the risks and putting strategies in place to manage them as best we can. I always wear my stainless steel dog tag when cycling, ‘just in case’. MedicAlert Foundation is proud to be able to help those with a pedal passion to still enjoy what they love, knowing that our distinctive emblem can give them a voice should they not be able to speak for themselves.