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ARHA Palliative Care Services

When we hear the term “palliative care,” we usually think of someone facing the end of their life’s journey. While this is true, the Assiniboine Regional Health Authority (ARHA) Palliative Care Services are also for people dealing with a life-altering illness, one not necessarily ending in death, but certainly a condition that affects quality of life. Medications and treatments are said to be “palliative” if they relieve symptoms, such as nausea or pain, for example, without having a curative effect on the underlying disease or cause.

Barb Packwood, a registered nurse from Carberry, holds the position of regional palliative care co-ordinator for the east half of the area administered by the ARHA. She says there are 24 facilities in the entire ARHA, “a region the size of no other, with the exception of Winnipeg.”

The two palliative care co-ordinators in the ARHA help facilitate a multidisciplinary team approach to patient care, relying on input from doctors, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, spiritual advisers, home-care providers, and family and friends. They then formulate a “whole-person” flexible plan of care to help alleviate suffering in all areas of a patient’s life.

Packwood assists a monthly roster of 65 to 70 people on an annual basis; clients who are at home, in hospital or in a long-term facility. “Palliative care services are not about dying, but rather about living life to the fullest before we die,” she said.

Palliative care is not only about sadness or depression. A client who had initially been hesitant to use any of the services, ultimately was relieved to be offered supportive care to meet her life goals.

Sometimes, a person just needs someone to help access the drug program that pays for medications and home oxygen, or help with documentation such as advance-care planning and health-care directives, should that person become incapacitated.

There is a tremendous need for volunteers, and throughout the year training sessions are held covering such things as: introduction to palliative care, confidentiality, understanding the dying person, communication and cultural needs, physical and spiritual care of the dying and the role of the volunteer in loss, grief and bereavement. A potential volunteer needs to attend each of six two-hour training sessions and undergo a child abuse registry and criminal records check, as well as an intake interview.

A volunteer makes contact with a client on a regular basis to visit, listen and reminisce, offer a ride or respite care, or perhaps spend the night with someone who is restless and wakeful. They can have the ultimate satisfaction of knowing they have helped to make someone’s journey easier and their last moments peaceful.

For more information contact Barb Packwood at 204-841-4058.

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