Palliative Care a Lifeline

IMG_7925For many people, having family member diagnosed with a life-threatening illnesses a frightening and confusing time

According to Palliative Care Coordinator Karen Hobin, it is the fear of the unknown that makes the process overwhelming. As Coordinator for the GuysboroughMemorialHospital’s program, it’s Karen’s role to help families make their way through the maze of decisions, emotions and questions they face.

The program provides a range of services from education and advocacy to assisting patients by monitoring symptoms through home visits. She sees her roles as “a lifeline,” linking patients and their families to the health care system.

For examples, she explains, a patient may be experiences unexpected side effects from a new medication. A phone call and a home visit from Karen can often solve a problem or diminish a worry. If there is a problem requiring a physician, Karen can consult by phone and my help save a patient from the inconvenience, discomfort and expense of a visit to the clinic or hospital.

Becoming a Palliative Care Nurse wasn’t where Karen started out, but as a result of a family illness she and others recognized that she had a keen interest and the personal support skills to work in the field of palliative care.

The Guysborough program started our as a pilot project one day a week and has expended to 20 hours a week, and according to Hobin, could easily be full time.

Her training included developing her understanding of the philosophy of palliative care and program guidelines. But the real success she says comes from early referrals from doctors and a good working relationship with Home Care and Home Support staff.

The program currently serves 16 families and can address a range of needs from information on what to expect from chemotherapy to grief counseling for family members of all ages. “Patient navigation is an important part of the role and a simple thing like providing a map to a Halifax hospital can reduce a patient’s anxiety. Often patients don’t know what to ask specialists and Karen will help them prepare lists of questions to take to appointments

While a referral to the Palliate Care program may signal distress to a patient, Karen is quick to point out that patients should not perceive it as the end of life. She has a 50% discharge rate as patients with life threatening illness can and do recover with appropriate and timely treatment and support.

Karen’s pride in the programs development extends to the latest project – a newly renovated the furnished Family Room – is evident as she walks down the corridor of the hospital. She is encouraged by the prospect of being able to offer family members of patients with terminal illness a “home away from home”.

The new family room is a joint project of the Guysborough Hospital Foundation and the Guysborough Hospital Auxiliary

The Hospital foundation assisted with renovations or create a private washroom and the Auxiliary provided comfortable furnishings.