May 5–11 will be observed as Hospice Week to highlight the role that hospices play in the medical and health-care landscape.
Hospice Week also highlights the role of partnerships in providing support and care for people with life-threatening illnesses. According to the Department of Health, activities of this week seek to recognise, share and celebrate the achievements of hospice and palliative care programmes with their partners.
Dr Ewa Skowronska, CEO of the Hospice Palliative Care Association (HPCA), said patients and their families are often scared to approach a hospice or panic when their doctor proposes palliative care because they believe that this is giving up.
“The holistic care that our members offer, often alongside curative treatments, improves quality of life and can even extend life,” said Skowronska,
According to Angelique Botha, a home care nurse at Helderberg Hospice, Stewart Gordon’s story is a perfect example of good hospice care.
Gordon had 14% cardiac function left, was bed bound and had difficulty breathing when he was referred by Groote Schuur Hospital.
“Helderberg Hospice’s interdisciplinary team of a doctor, nurse and social worker visited Stewart in his home and within a month he was walking again,” said Botha.
Dr Mark Hosking, who cared for Gordon, said the essence of palliative care is the interdisciplinary focus that they bring to the patient’s bedside.
“Empathy and patience are key elements in our work,” said Hosking.
“Each patient is unique and we as social workers celebrate this uniqueness and encourage patients and families to live and make decisions as the experts of their own lives.”
Gordon was a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast who longed to go riding once more and ultimately his palliative care team deemed him well enough to spend a day riding on a Harley-Davidson with a local motorcycling club.
He died peacefully at his home, surrounded by his loved ones, two and a half years after being referred to Helderberg Hospice.
Dr Jesne Kistan from Hospice East Rand said living with a serious illness can be difficult, especially when it comes to managing complex and distressing symptoms.
“That’s where palliative care comes in,” said Kistan.
“Our goal is to improve the quality of life for patients living with serious illnesses.
“Our palliative care services are available to patients admitted to hospitals as well as ill patients in the comfort of their homes.
“We work alongside oncologists, physicians, neurologists, surgeons, internists, nurses, and other clinical teams to ensure the best possible care for our patients.”
Gordon’s sister, Patricia van Wyk, said as a family member she can see the value of having hospice in one’s life.
“It is the beginning of the journey, not the end,” she added.