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Palliative Care is about extending life, not ending it, say experts

Date: 25/05/2018

Experts who work with patients with advanced illness at Cabrini in Melbourne say it’s time to redefine what is meant by palliative care, with figures clearly showing that palliative care is about extending life and living it to its fullest rather than ending it.

Figures released to mark National Palliative Care Week (20-26 May 2018) show that at Cabrini Palliative Care in Prahran, Cabrini’s inpatient specialist palliative care hospital, an increasing number of patients are discharged home after receiving expert symptom control, reconditioning and psychosocial support.

“The trend for 2018 is continuing that of previous years,” says Director of Nursing & Patient Experience Janine Stockley. “And it’s in marked contrast to what I was seeing more than a decade ago, where people thought that they were getting into bed to die.

“Ten years ago in 2008, most patients admitted to our inpatient unit died. So far, in 2018 the figures show that just over half of our monthly admissions are discharged home while the remaining have end-of-life care here.

“We have one patient who has been admitted multiple times over two years – showing yet again, that early intervention can enrich and lengthen the lives of people who have life-limiting illness.

“Our trends reflect what international studies have shown.

“New drug regimes, modern cancer treatments that can be delivered together with palliative and supportive care, and new pain procedures mean people can get on with their lives with less pain and easing of other distressing symptoms.

“Patients are also more informed about options for their care and there is a lot more discussion about what is important to them and their families,” said Ms Stockley.

Cabrini Director of Palliative Medicine, Associate Professor Natasha Michael says the number of people receiving palliative care for several years is increasing.

“It’s time to recognise we need more investment and attention for an ageing population, which is living longer,” said Associate Professor Michael.

“It’s also time to redefine our choices about end-of-life care, particularly when some people now have the option of ‘assisted dying’, which we know many people would not choose if they had the option of supported care.

“At Cabrini, we maintain that very few truly choose to end their life by suicide: we continue with our commitment to ensure patients are given the choice about what matters most, which is to have a death free from suffering, supported by family and friends, and to live as well as possible until the end of life.

“Last year, the Victorian Government announced increased funding for palliative care services, particularly in rural and regional areas – this is welcomed, but we urge ongoing investment in community and aged-care services where there continues to be a high amount of unmet need.”

Cabrini provides palliative care at no or minimum costs to its privately insured patients, in keeping with its mission to care for the vulnerable. Its palliative care services are provided in the following settings

 

  1. Community – Cabrini offers a unique service to provide nursing, medical, information and equipment, medications and assessment for people who choose to stay at home.
  2.  Consultancy & ambulatory – providing expert advice and support for patients in the acute hospital setting and in outpatient clinics.
  3. Inpatient – Cabrini runs a private palliative care inpatient unit caring for patients who need pain management or end-of-life care in Prahran, Melbourne.

With the development of the new Gandel Wing at Cabrini Malvern due to open in 2019, Cabrini will be expanding its palliative care service, providing access to more inpatient beds at the hospital.

Media information: contact Christine Elmer ph (03) 9508 3551 or 0459 811 693, Cabrini marketing and community relations department.