Palliative care getting the attention it deserves
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 26, 2013 06:00 am
A fledgling effort to improve palliative care options in St. Albert got off to a good start earlier this month but success depends on many variables: the ability of the newly-formed steering committee to stay focused and committed during what is sure to be a long-term endeavour, the ability of all concerned to work together, and most importantly, the eventual availability of provincial funding.
Despite the fact that many in the community were caught up in election season, a meeting aimed at exchanging ideas for improving access to palliative care in St. Albert drew a healthy crowd of 40 people at the St. Albert Legion on Oct. 10.
The turnout is indicative of the pressing nature of the need for more palliative care, which is the care provided to a person who is living with a terminal condition.
The meeting not only drew good numbers, but it drew a respectable cross section of people with expertise in this field.
As is the case throughout Canada and Alberta, St. Albertís population is aging. With just one palliative care bed in the city, at the Youville Home, the need for more services is clear. Most St. Albertans requiring palliative care use Edmonton-based services such as the Grey Nuns Community Hospital.
Understanding where to go from here requires some understanding of this relatively new field within health care. Palliative care traces its roots back to the 1960s, states the Edmonton-based website www.palliative.org.
Palliative care in the Edmonton region is provided through home care, long-term care facilities, hospitals and outpatient clinics. Palliative care teams include family doctors and nurses but could also include other professionals like dietitians, therapists and social workers.
As Dr. Elisa Mori-Torres pointed out at the meeting, studies have shown that quality of life for palliative care patients improves if they have their families near. One Youville Home representative said the facility has looked at expanding care beds, but funding is always a major roadblock.
Another representative of Covenant Health noted heís seen other initiatives try to go forward alone, but with great difficulty. For St. Albertís new group to succeed, it will require co-operation, getting advice from others whoíve been there. This is crucial in order to make the most of available volunteers, grants etc.
Volunteers at the meeting noted that both local MLAs, Stephen Khan and Doug Horner, have been approached about this issue and are receptive. This is good, as it must be common knowledge within Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health that more palliative care is needed.
Having St. Albert people in Edmonton facilities doesnít help the bed shortage thatís already being felt in the capital. But more importantly, the people of St. Albert belong here. At a painful, private time, families donít want to commute into Edmonton. They want to stay here, where the life that is ending made its mark.