Two years. Two years ago today I was breathing in the salty air of the Pacific as I finished off the last few kilometres of an epic trip I never could have imagined. What started out as an homage to my father Ted turned into a crusade for palliative care; to promote and educate fellow Canadians and a chance to show my gratitude to those who dedicate themselves to ensuring a good quality of life and a good death.
I was no expert on palliative care, not by a long shot. I just knew they made Dad’s death better than it could have been and I witnessed firsthand compassion and dignity, not just for Dad but our family. And many families like ours. In April, I joined the board of the Aberdeen Palliative Care Society and continued to educate myself on the ins and outs. Seeing what goes on behind the scenes really opened my eyes to the work that lies ahead. We cannot afford to be complacent.
The fact of the matter is, we will all die at some point. It is part of the contract we signed when we were born. We celebrate new life with enthusiasm, embracing the beauty of potential, yet when it comes to death, we close our eyes and hope for the best. Death is natural but, for many reasons, we have made it a bogeyman. We need to open the closet door and expose death for what it is, to have conversations that prepare us and take responsibility for our lives and deaths.
What I see with the Aberdeen Palliative Team is dedication and compassion, working tirelessly to ensure those in Pictou County face these challenges knowing they are not alone. They do not hasten death or prolong life, they provide quality of life for the time you do have.
The concerns I have are the workloads; every year we see an increase in referrals and, to be quite frank, I see the weight on the shoulders of the front lines. The reality is we have one palliative care doctor and two consult nurses and they are being asked to do more and more. Even with the best intentions, this is not sustainable and, ultimately, will affect quality of care at some point.
With an aging population, the problem will not be alleviated anytime soon and so many others would benefit from palliative-care intervention sooner. We need to support them like they support us; we need to have conversations with loved ones and advocate for more resources, especially here in our hometowns. Whether we accept the reality that we will die or not, we will die. The mortality rate has remained steady at 100 per cent. Let’s ensure our loved ones have the care they deserve.
How can you help? Write a letter to your local MLA, MP showing your support for the Aberdeen, share your stories with letters to the editor, make a donation, get involved. Let’s work as a community to support each other, Pictou County shines when it works together.
Advanced care planning
Did you know eight out of 10 Canadians have never heard of Advance care planning?
Advance care planning is a process of reflecting on and communication your wishes for end of life care with your family and health team.
Only about half of Canadians have had a discussion with a family member or friend about what they want or don’t want if they were ill or unable to communicate.
That means that 50 per cent of their families don’t know their loved one’s wishes – and may have some difficult decisions to make.