22 July 2021
By Denis O’Brien, Pastoral Care Practitioner, CatholicCare
National Palliative Care Week was marked in May this year at the new Mona Vale Hospital Palliative Care Unit.
The national theme this year for the week long focus on services is ‘Palliative Care: It’s More Than You Think.’
Activities included Morning Teas for supportive members of the community and Staff in the facilities of the Mona Vale Hospital precinct. This includes the Hammond Care Community Palliative Care Centre on site, a private health care service in existence for many years in the district supporting care at home.
Significant among the guests were members of the ‘Friends of Northern Beaches Palliative Care’. Tribute was paid by staff leaders to this group of active women and men who have been advocating since the late 1900s for Palliative Care services to be established on the Northern Beaches. They have raised considerable funds in that time which goes a long way to providing extra equipment for the unit now that it has been built and opened this year. The group also provides support to families through education and companionship to individuals and families who have lost loved ones. Please contact Mona Vale Hospital if you wish to support this very important group.
Pictured : Dawn Hooper, Clinical Consultant, Palliative Care Unit, Mona Vale Hospital (right); Lynette Johnson, Volunteer Coordinator for Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Northern Beaches Local Health District (centre); and Denis O’Brien, Pastoral Care Practitioner for CatholicCare DBB.
Dawn Hooper expressed her desire to do ‘whatever is possible to create opportunities for community engagement with the new Palliative Care Unit’. This goal will be a big focus in her time in leadership at the unit.
Jennifer McConnell, Acting General Manager, Mona Vale Hospital, has spoken of her pride in how well the Unit has started this year and how important it has become in the community already.
"I would like to recognise our new Palliative Care team here at Mona Vale," said Jennifer. "The unit has been open for four months and has been oversubscribed since they opened, showing the need for this service in the community. We have received many letters of compliment for the service, and particularly for the kindness and compassion of the team. Working in this area requires huge resilience and continued empathy and I would like to acknowledge the toll that this can take on the staff. Thank you for everything that you do."
A national community survey undertaken by Palliative Care Australia found that:
• Three quarters of Australians (76%) are likely to ask for palliative care for themselves or someone close to them if they have a serious, prolonged or terminal illness.
• Only four in ten Australians (39%) think a person can first ask for palliative care when they are first diagnosed with a terminal, chronic, or degenerative illness.
• Fewer than one third of Australians (31%) think that GPs can provide palliative care.
• The majority of Australians (88%) think it is important to start thinking and talking about their wishes and preferences for care if they were to become seriously or terminally ill. However, half (50%) have done nothing regarding their end-of-life-wishes.
• Respondents believe that talking about their preferences for the end of their life with their family will upset them (54%) and find the subject of death and planning for the end of their life too difficult to talk about (48%).
In our Catholic community it is important to know, especially in regard to Palliative Care patients, that we have a Hospital Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care Team available to assist patients in many ways spiritually, which includes support to families/carers of patients. Priests, Pastoral Care Practitioners and volunteer Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are ready to administer the Sacraments of the Church to Palliative Care patients and request that calls to attend are made as early as possible when Palliative Care begins. Receiving the Sacraments can be a very much richer experience for the patient and others engaged with their care, especially loving family members. Palliative Care Week has been about patients and loved ones being prepared for living with a diagnosed terminal, chronic, or degenerative illness. We believe this is also a time for a planned spiritual focus for the path ahead for everyone involved. For our faithful community our spiritual journey can be very supportive at this time.
Please make contact with the Hospital Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care Team in your local Parish district and by contacting your local Hospital. You can also contact CatholicCare Diocese of Broken Bay by phone on 9481 2600 or online at https://www.catholiccaredbb.org.au/family-youth-children/hospital-chaplaincy-pastoral-care/ and Palliative Care Australia. CatholicCare provides five lay Pastoral Care Practitioners to seven hospitals within our Diocese and rely on your donations to Pastoral Works Broken Bay. Please give generously.