Minister for Health Simon Harris TD has today (Sunday 8 September) launched Palliative Care Week aimed at encouraging more people to learn about palliative care.
The number of people aged over 65 is set to increase by almost 80 per cent over the next 20 years and Ireland has the most rapidly rising need for palliative care in Europe.
Palliative Care Week is coordinated by the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC), across the island of Ireland.
AIIHPC Director Karen Charnley said she hoped Palliative Care Week will encourage people to learn more about palliative care.
Palliative care focuses on helping a person, of any age, with any life-limiting illness, to achieve the best quality of life. It involves the management of pain and other symptoms and provides support for social, emotional and spiritual needs, and can be provided at home, in a nursing home, hospital or hospice.
Ms Charnley said: “In the Republic of Ireland, the number of people over 65 is projected to increase by almost 80% from 673,400 in 2018 to almost 1.2 million by 2038. Advances in public health, medicine and technology mean that people are living for many more years today than previous generations and this is something to be celebrated.
“As populations age, the pattern of diseases that people live with and die from changes. As well as being for people with advanced cancer, palliative care is also for people living with advanced heart or lung disease, kidney failure and other conditions such as motor neurone disease or dementia.
“Although the number of people over 65 is a key factor in determining the needs of palliative care services in populations, many people well below the age of 65, including from birth, will require palliative care due to their life-limiting illness or condition.
“Palliative Care Week aims to raise awareness of the difference palliative care can make to people with a life-limiting illness or condition, to carers and to families throughout the island of Ireland. This year’s theme ‘Palliative Care: Surrounding You With Support’, is focusing on how people with palliative care needs are being supported in the community. As we create conversations around palliative care, particularly involving people with direct experience, we hope more people will feel empowered to think about how palliative care could help them.”
Paul FitzPatrick from Coolock is supported by St Francis Hospice in Raheny. In January 2018, he was diagnosed with a life-changing condition: a lung disease called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). Before he became ill, he was working full-time as a truck driver and living an active life which included plenty of trips to the park with his six grandchildren.
Speaking at the launch of Palliative Care Week 2019, Paul said: “After the first couple of sessions I could feel my breathing getting better and I could start to do the simple things in life, like going up the stairs or going to the shops which I found very hard to manage before. From being down in the hospice and the treatment I’ve got down there, and the love and care and kindness has helped me progress through this and from this time last year I’m out and about which I thought I’d never be able to do again.”
Speaking ahead of Palliative Care Week, Minister Harris said: “Palliative Care Week provides an opportunity to highlight the positive impact that palliative care can have in improving quality of life for people diagnosed with a life-limiting or life-threatening illness. I would like to thank those who are sharing their stories with us during this Week.”
On palliative care provision in Ireland, Minister Harris said “We in Ireland can be proud of our position as a leading nation in the provision of palliative care. The Department of Health and the HSE remain committed to ensuring that Ireland’s palliative care system is fit for purpose, and offers targeted care to patients who avail of these services.”
Sheilagh Reaper-Reynolds, HSE Planning Lead for Palliative Care, said: “Palliative care services are vitally important for people living with a progressive illness that may limit or shorten their lives, and also for the people who care for them. The purpose of Palliative Care Week is to help us explain how much palliative services can improve a person’s quality of life throughout the course of their illness. The focus for 2019 is on how people with palliative care needs are being supported right across our health services including primary care, hospices, hospitals and nursing homes. This support also stretches beyond formal health and social care services to include the many volunteers and support organisations working in the wider community.”