“Dying happens. We should talk.”
This quote, from a bus sign placed by the Palliative Care Institute at Western Washington University, illustrates the mission of a special brand of health care that helps patients and those around them deal with serious, terminal illnesses.
Those having to deal with end-of-life issues can experience great stress and worry, as can their family members and caregivers. The main goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life of all involved.
These issues have received special prominence lately in Whatcom County, where WWU’s Palliative Care Institute has been working to improve care for patients with serious or terminal illnesses by demonstrating how special attention to end-of-life care can help people live as actively as possible before death.
The institute works with other partners, such as Whatcom Alliance for Health Management, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, Whatcom Family & Community Network and others, to improve patients’ quality of life ― physically, mentally and spiritually ― and, when the time comes, to ease patients’ dying process.
The institute is a collaboration of WWU, Northwest Life Passages and other community agencies and volunteers in Whatcom County.
Related: How is Palliative Care different from Hospice? Read more.
The PCI’s mission ― “to create a healing community by providing a space where people living with serious illnesses or facing the end of life don’t have to be cured to heal” ― is one that greatly affects caregivers throughout the county, especially as palliative care is a community responsibility.
To that end, an upcoming conference scheduled for May 12 is focused on caregiver resilience, especially in the face of end-of-life issues. Attendees can learn about the hazards of caregiving, such as burnout, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma, and the many ways caregivers can build resilience in themselves and others.
There are several ways the Palliative Care Institute and others in the local community are working to improve end-of-life care:
- Leading conversations about the definition of ‘health’ and the qualities of a caring community.
- Through various cultural activities, attempting to normalize conversations about serious illness and death and dying.
- Linking those who need them to the appropriate palliative resources.
- Offering workshops and conferences, such as the 2017 Annual Palliative Care Institute Conference on May 12.
If you have questions about end-of-life care for a loved one in Whatcom County, contact the PCI or reach out to the folks at Northwest Adult Day Health or Christian Health Care Center for more information and resources.