Pandemic brings palliative care and end of life care into sharp focus

The importance of palliative care and end of life care.

Sadly end of life care for thousands of Coronavirus patients is happening in the absence of their loved ones.  Stories of healthcare professionals holding a patient’s hand as they provide comfort in the last minutes of life are happening in hospitals around the world. Precious time with family and loved ones is not possible.  

As medical interventions fail to save lives in the battle of Coronavirus, hundreds of thousands will die in hospitals under the watchful kindness of doctors and nurses. At the end the most powerful things they can do is to offer a compassionate hand so that patients know that they matter and that they are not alone.  Many palliative care professionals report that to care for someone at the end of their life is a privilege. All that remains after all the doing is done is to show a person kindness, love and compassion.  This is the part of palliative care in which we all have a role to play.

Covid-19 is bringing into sharp focus the importance of palliative care and end of life care that is provided by family and loved ones.  People living with a life-limiting illness or old age in their last years of life spend only 5% of their time with healthcare professionals and 95% of their time with their loved ones.  Their loved ones know them at a deep level, they know what brings them comfort and what is important to them and they continue to provide care without much acknowledgement nor support.

We should not return to ‘normal’.

‘A mind stretched by new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.’  Oliver Wendell Holmes

When we finally emerge from this terrible pandemic let us all remember the importance of our role in providing palliative care when we consider our terminally ill, our older people, carers and those living with loss.  A shining example of specialist palliative care is Foyle Hospice, through its in-patient and day hospice facilities, community specialist nursing teams that provide care, support and guidance at the most difficult time of life.

Compassionate Communities North West is an outreach project led by Foyle Hospice. It works with local people and organisations to build resilient communities that support people living with a life-limiting illness and frailty. Raising awareness on the impact of social isolation and through education, the projects aim is to help people live independently within their own communities until the end of their lives. The majority of people wish to die at home, surrounded by the people whom they love – 70% wish to die home but only 20% do. Instead they die in acute medical institutions surrounded by medics unable to stop natures course.

Working together we can start to reverse this statistic. How? We can plan for our own ill health and death and communicate wishes to our loved ones; we can reach out to people caring for someone at home, offer to do the shopping or cut the grass; we can listen to the grief stricken neighbour who is living with the pain and sorrow of losing someone special.

We all have a role to play in supporting Bill and his family, see how you can help.      Bill’s Story

To find out more on how you can live well in your community contact:

Sharon Williams, Project Facilitator on 075 9035 4365 or email [email protected].

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