People are being encouraged to find out more about palliative care and the difference it can make to people with a life-limiting illness.
Palliative care focuses on helpling people with life-limiting conditions to achieve the best quality of life they can.
It involves the management of symptoms, such as pain, but also aims to provide support for a person's emotional, social and spiritual needs. It can be provided at home, in hospital, in a nursing home or in a hospice.
This week is Palliative Care Week and the theme of this year's event is 'Surrounding You With Support', which is focusing on how people's palliative care needs are being supported in the community.
The demand for palliative care is expected to increase in the coming years due to our ageing population. Currently in Ireland, there are around 674,000 people over the age of 65. However by 2038, this is projected to increase by over 80%, to 1.2 million people.
"Advances in public health, medicine and technology mean that people are living for many more years today than previous generations and this is something to be celebrated.
"As populations age, the pattern of diseases that people live with and die from changes. As well as being for people with advanced cancer, palliative care is also for people living with advanced heart or lung disease, kidney failure and other conditions such as motor neurone disease or dementia," explained Karen Charnley, director of the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC), which is coordinating Palliative Care Week.
However, Ms Charley also pointed that while the number of people over the age of 65 is a key factor in determining the needs of palliative care services in populations, "many people well below the age of 65, including from birth, will require palliative care due to their life-limiting illnesses or conditions".
Palliative Care Week wants to raise awareness of the differences palliative care can make to those with life-limiting conditions, but also to their carers and families.
In January 2018, Paul Fitzpatrick from Coolock in Dublin was diagnosed with a life-changing condition - a lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Before he became ill, he was working full-time as a truck driver and living an active life, which included plenty of trips to the park with his six grandchildren.
He is currently receiving support from St Francis Hospice in Raheny.
"After the first couple of sessions I could feel my breathing getting better and I could start to do the simple things in life, like going up the stairs or going to the shops, which I found very hard to manage before. The treatment I've received in the hospice, and the love and care and kindness I've been shown, has helped me progress through this and compared to this time last year, I'm out and about which I thought I'd never be able to do again," Mr Fitzpatrick said.
According to Sheilagh Reaper-Reynolds, the HSE's planning lead for palliative care, palliative care services are "vitally important" for those with life-limiting illnesses and the people who care for them.
"The purpose of Palliative Care Week is to help us explain how much palliative services can improve a person's quality of life throughout the course of their illness.
"The focus for 2019 is on how people with palliative care needs are being supported right across our health services including primary care, hospices, hospitals and nursing homes. This support also stretches beyond formal health and social care services to include the many volunteers and support organisations working in the wider community," she added.
For more information on Palliative Care Week, which runs from September 8-14, click here.
*Pictured is Paul Fitzpatrick from Dublin and his wife, Margaret
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