For many people, the word “hospice” is associated with death.
But for a 40-year-old Portia, who suffers from neuromyelitis optica, also known as Devic’s disease – a rare condition that where the immune system damages the spinal cord and eye nerves – this perception changed after she recovered healthy in a hospice in Johannesburg.
When she was admitted to HospiceWits shortly after being released from Chris Hani Baragwanath had been hospitalized, she could not walk, was bedridden and had tremors. But thanks to a multidisciplinary team caring for her and helping her manage her symptoms, including pain management, massage, exercise, and psychological and spiritual support, Portia gradually recovered and was able to get out of bed every morning and slowly move around the house. She was later able to bathe herself.
Today, not only can she use her limbs and clean her house again, she can also drive a car – thanks to the support she received at the Johannesburg Hospice.
“She keeps her appointments at the hospital and takes her own treatment without guidance. Palliative care intervention improved the quality of life of this patient. The patient has more control, she has gained weight and is now living a normal, productive and meaningful life,” the hospice said.
Ewa Skowronska, CEO of the Hospice Palliative Care Association (HPCA), tells the story by Portia is just one of many success stories. While palliative care is often understood only as care for the terminally ill, Skowronska says that is not the case.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, hospices have seen an increase in hospital admissions as hospitals are under pressure from rising numbers advised by patients. Skowronska said during the pandemic, many medical professionals have become aware of the need for holistic healthcare for patients with life-threatening diagnoses. They began to work more with hospices and palliative care centers not only for the benefits to patients but also for the support they offered to healthcare workers as they saw an unprecedented number of deaths.
Palliative care will be in the spotlight May 1-7, National Hospice Week – a time that highlights the importance and essence of palliative care. Multidisciplinary teams in hospices such as physicians, professional nurses, social workers, chaplains and home care workers address not only physical symptoms but also the psychological and spiritual needs of patients to ensure holistic healing.
“The Team works with the patient’s own specialist physician or oncologist to ensure the quality of life of patients diagnosed with life-limiting diseases and to prevent and alleviate unnecessary suffering.”
Hospices provide palliative care in threes Main avenues – home care for those who prefer or can be treated at home, hospice community centers or day care centers for those who can travel to central points, and in-patient units for 24-hour care.
According to Leigh Meinert, the Advocacy and Operations Manager of the HPCA: “Despite the holistic care that P Unfortunately, we often hear from patients who come to (centres) v very late in the course of their disease. This essentially deprives individuals of the quality of life that could be possible when confronted with a life-threatening condition.”
A Somerset West GP, Dr. Mark Hosking, who works closely with the Helderberg Hospice in the Western Cape, considers himself one of the “extraordinarily lucky people to have been working with the hospice in a trusting manner for many years”.
“The hospice enables me to provide care in the home of the patient, which is professionally cared for by experienced nurses with in-depth knowledge, easy to coordinate of palliative algorithms. This care then migrates from nursing to family care. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week and my patients feel very supported by this broad and comprehensive support.”
Support independent journalism by subscribing to Sunday Times. Only 20 R for the first month.