On Wednesday 17th October 2012 around 140 healthcare professionals from many parts of the country gathered to think about and debate the challenges of ‘Palliative care for the long term’.
The welcoming venue provided the context for really high quality speakers who dovetailed their talks and created an atmosphere for reflection and thoughtfulness to help us take our practice forward.
Professor Malcolm Johnson set the scene by painting the demographic picture of an ageing population and the characteristics of dying which are different for older people, the needs they have which we need to try and meet and the concept of biographical pain.
Dr Sharon Chadwick ably followed this by setting out the number of interventions we can now make to prolong the life of people suffering from multiple morbidities and the continuing need for medics and other health care professionals to talk and work with each other and discover what individual patients hope for.
After coffee Dr Max Watson set out the case that 90% of care for a variety of long term conditions is the same, gave some tips for managing different illnesses and set us thinking how relationships may be maintained between episodes when care is needed. New models of working are required. He reminded us that care for people with long term conditions needs to be good at the beginning (via clear and honest introductions), the middle (managing long term relationships with stable and unstable episodes) and the end.
Dr Suzy Jordache then addressed the topic of prolonged uncertainty for families supporting a loved one with a life threatening diagnosis which at the same time takes years to develop. She introduced the concept of chronic cancer and helpful ways for assessing the resilience of families and then developing ways to help them with their coping strategies.
The afternoon brought a change in emphasis from the broad to the particular. In response to questions in previous years, Helen Joels set out a brief overview of the service that IRGH offers to set the scene for Bruce Newman who spoke from the carer perspective of his experiences caring for first his mother and then his mother in law supported by IRHH and the primary health care team.
The last session of the day was led by Karen Harrison Dening explaining the role of the admiral nurse and the needs of carers for dementia patients.
Delegates to the conference were able to ask questions at the end of each session and so join the debate about the issues. They were also able to view 12 posters designed by delegates demonstrating how they have developed innovations to practice – a great way to network and learn from the work of others.
Feedback from delegates as they left and from evaluations indicated that this had been a thought - provoking day with much to take back and share with colleagues in the workplace.