Palliative care is loving our neighbour

14 June 2016

“Our last few days with my wife were surrounded by friends, family, music, prayers, caring nurses that was truly a spiritual experience.”

Randy in Kelowna recently wrote us a beautiful letter about his wife, Rhoda, who passed away last fall after an 18-month battle with cancer.

He described the incredible palliative care support that he and his wife received. “They laughed with us, cried with us and made my wife’s last few weeks here on earth, as difficult as they were, as pain free as possible. The team went out of their way to make her comfortable and to ease our fears of her being in any undue pain.”

Palliative care is a multidisciplinary approach to caring for those who have a life-threatening disease. It offers pain management, social, psychological, emotional and spiritual support to individuals, as well as support for caregivers.

Offering such holistic care, comfort and peace is an appropriate response to people at the end of life.

The vast majority of Canadians believe that hospice palliative care has a positive impact, according to a 2013 Harris/Decima poll. But only 16 to 30 per cent of Canadians who need palliative care have access to it.

The EFC is joining with other faith leaders to issue an interfaith statement on palliative care, released at a press conference on Parliament Hill today. The statement points out that: “Visiting those who are sick, and caring for those who are dying, are core tenets of our respective faiths and reflect our shared values as Canadians. “

In this statement, we call on all levels of government to support a robust, well-resourced, national palliative care strategy. Government support and funding will make high-quality palliative care more accessible across the country.

There is a role for us, too, as individuals, families, churches and communities. We can love our neighbour by providing care and tangible expressions of love. Let’s find the places in our community where we are needed to support people at the end of life.

As Randy closed his letter to us, “If Rhoda and I knew that this would have been an issue, we would have documented or somehow recorded her final days just to see how beautiful and spiritual it can be with proper palliative team training.”

Author: Beth Hiemstra, EFC Centre for Faith and Public Life