Palliative Care

By Barbara Small

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Palliative care is associated with end-of-life care when someone is terminally ill. It focuses on care and comfort, rather than a cure, and consists of medical care, together with social, emotional and spiritual support.

A key resource in our community that provides palliative care is Victoria Hospice. Hospice provides an integrated program, which includes expert physical care and social, emotional and spiritual support to patients and their families facing death and bereavement. Care is provided in patients' homes, at Hospice's in-patient unit and in other hospital settings throughout our community.

Hospice also offers a Palliative Response Team (PRT), which is on call 24 hours a day for short-term crisis consultation and treatment in patients' homes. PRT is also available to support death at home.

Through VIHA, a Case Manager can visit to set up home supports with a Community Support Worker for clients who need personal care or respite at home. Clients in hospital who want to go home with services in place may receive assistance from Community Access Case Managers who work in Acute Care. Call 388-2273 for more information.

To register for palliative care and Victoria Hospice, the family doctor makes a referral to the Home and Community Care Program. A Home Care Nurse will do an initial assessment and provide ongoing care, as needed. When requested, the Home Care Nurse will make a referral to Hospice, enabling the client and family to access additional services. For residents of the Sooke area, Sooke Hospice has a unique program run by volunteers and specially trained family doctors who provide 24-hour care, in conjunction with the Home Care Nurse.

The B.C. Palliative Care Benefits Program covers the costs for equipment, medical supplies and drugs. The family doctor completes the application at the appropriate time. There is no cost for visits by Hospice and VIHA health professionals. If home supports are needed for personal care or respite as determined by the Case Manager, there may be a charge to the client.

If a caregiver needs to take time off work to help care for a dying relative, Compassionate Care Benefits, for up to six weeks, are now available for this purpose. Contact your local Employment Insurance Office for more information.

To learn more about end-of-life care in our community, Victoria Hospice presents Hospice & Palliative Care Information evenings on the third Tuesday of each month, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Salvation Army Citadel, 4030 Douglas Street. Call 370-8813 for more information.

Family Caregivers' Network also has two free booklets, A Caregiver's Guide: A Handbook About End-of Life Care and Living Lessons: A Guide for Caregivers, available for pick-up at the office at 526 Michigan Street. Both produced by the Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Association.

Next month: Update on services and products provided by the Family Caregivers' Network Society.

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