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.