Offering care to those who need it most

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To some, a chair cushion may seem like just that, but to those in palliative care, it’s much more; it’s comfort.

Palliative care provides comfort during one of the most difficult times in a person’s life.

“It’s end of life care. We try to reduce severity of pain and discomfort, and to make their end of life a dignified experience, where they have an opportunity to not only say their good-byes, but to know the meaning of their life and what it meant to others,” said Stephen Sparks, member of the palliative care committee representing the clergy of the community.

Linne Bowler, registered nurse in home care in Bonnyville and palliative care committee member, said when using the term palliative care, there is sometimes a misconception that it only serves seniors, but that’s not the case.

“Unfortunately, and sadly, we do see children very young to those who are very old,” she said, adding palliative care also includes various diagnoses from cancer to other terminal illnesses.

In order to help ease patients through this stage of their life, groups such as the palliative care committee work hard to fundraise for equipment for places like the home care centre, which support patients in their own home.

Most recently, they purchased inflatable cushions and sheepskin covers, after being granted $2,600 from the committee; money that was raised through their Tree of Hope and community donations.

The equipment will help make palliative patients as comfortable as possible.

The ROHO brand inflatable cushions are designed for chair and wheelchairs. They will help alleviate discomfort for patients who find sitting painful, or are sitting for long periods of time.

The sheepskins are used on beds and chairs to cover and provide comfort to sensitive areas, such as heels and elbows.

“Those are the places where people’s skin breaks down, is in the elbows and heels,” explained Bowler, adding those areas are a concern because they are some of the more boney areas on the body.

“It will help them be more comfortable in their home, and will provide a less chance of skin breakdown.”

In order to be eligible for the home care program, the patient must be referred by either family members or by a physician. Families may ask for the service as they seek further help with a patient who chooses to remain in their home.

The home care program can offer them help through their ties with EMS and the hospital. For example, families can call EMS who will attend the residence and provide basic care. This helps prevent having to transport patients to the hospital.

“I think that families and clients have to cope with so much when they hear the words end of life… We want to give them as much as we can to make them have the dignity of their life and be able to support them in anyway that we can to make it more comfortable,” Bowler said.

Sparks added that hearing the news that a loved one is dying can be a scary thing. Palliative care helps aid in the process of accepting the diagnosis and honouring the patient’s life.

“We try and help facilitate the people, the acknowledgement of the death, and the value of the life of the person that is dying… to know that their life mattered and still matters.”

Education is also an important aspect of palliative care. Oftentimes, people don’t know the services that are available to them within their own community, or that palliative care is for all ages.

“A lot of people don’t know (what palliative care is). They are very relieved when they learn that we can support them in any way,” Bowler said.

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