Working with patients who are in their final stages of life isn’t easy.
It can be difficult acknowledging to both patients and family members that someone is approaching the end and then trying to inform them of procedures.
But Dr. Mary Lou Kelley, a researcher in the Lakehead University social work program, hopes the new palliative care toolkit she has created can help improve the palliative care system.
The toolkit, which comes after five years of research, was nationally launched through a webinar from the university on Monday. It's supported by 40 operational resources, modules, in-services and innovations to improve training for all level of workers in long-term care facilities.
It also includes a recommended three-year process of change for facilities looking to develop a formal palliative care program.
“We really need to recognize the function long-term care homes play in providing palliative and end of life care and we need to support them in doing that as well as they can,” Kelley said.
“It’s not well understood that 20 per cent of residents die every year. That means one in five residents in long-term care homes die because of the age and frailty of the population. When a resident is admitted to long-term care their life expectancy is only about a year-and-a-half and probably will be the place they live until the end of their life.”
Marg Poling, palliative pain and symptom management consultant with the Community Care Access Centre, said resident turnover takes a toll on staff.
She said the toolkit creates guidelines for consistent communication that allows workers to talk to residents and family.
“They really need the support,” Poling said.
“Dealing with someone on a constant basis who is going to die or approaching the end of their life is emotionally draining. They need the empowerment, the knowledge and the education to build that team capacity within long-term care.”
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