By Kirk Winter

Across Canada, May 5 to 11 is National Hospice Palliative Care Week.

Many people wonder what the term palliative care refers to, and in its simplest terms it is “the care for patients and their families who are facing a serious life-threatening illness. Palliative care aims to relieve suffering and improve quality of life for patients and their families at all stages of the illness. Palliative care focuses on treating the impact that an illness has on patients, and is often provided in addition to other care that focuses on treating the illness itself.”

Palliative care can be accessed in many different settings. Your family doctor can begin the process of providing you with the care you need, or providing the appropriate referrals to hospice care, hospital care or programming at a long term care facility. More and more palliative care is being provided in the patients home as a considerable number of patients want to spend as much time as they have left surrounded by the things and people they are most familiar with.

Palliative care can be supplemented and assisted by hospice care. In CKL, the Community Care Health and Care Network’s Hospice Services is who you need to contact to see what kind of services are available.

The philosophy of hospice care states that “hospice palliative care aims to provide physical, emotional, social and spiritual care for the individuals living with a life-threatening illness, and support for their family. Providing this holistic approach to care helps individuals to live their remaining days in dignity and comfort, and supports the family through the grief journeys. It brings physicians, nurses, spiritual councillors, other health care providers, volunteers, friends and family members together. Hospice care continues to provide support to families after the death of their loved one through grief and bereavement support for all ages.”

Local hospice volunteers “are trained to assist individuals and their families through each person’s unique situation. Volunteers provide visits that create a safe emotional environment and offer caregivers a period of relief.”

Volunteers can provide light bedside comfort and care, companionship by simply being there, relief for caregivers, accompaniment to appointments, outings to the community and information about what to expect if end-of-life nears.

As one Community Care expert said, “We spend far too much time planning the funeral and not nearly enough time ensuring support and quality of life for the individuals to live their remaining days in dignity and comfort.”

The founder of the hospice palliative care movement Dame Cicely Saunders stated,” You matter because of who you are. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can to not only help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”

Locally, Community Care will be hosting one of its major fundraisers, Hike for Hospice, on Sunday May 5. After collecting pledges walkers can stroll between one and five kilometers with their money going towards hospice palliative care programs in the City of Kawartha Lakes. For more information you can contact Ryan Alexander, Hospice Services Manager Community Care at 705-324-7323 extension 501.